When we are children, we believe that our families will always be the same. Time moves slowly, and we don’t understand that a future awaits in which family members will be born, or die, or marry into other families, or stray, or become estranged. And perhaps no holiday better illustrates a family’s ebb and flow, its metamorphosis and stasis, than Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a magnet that draws people back into their families, even as polar opposites attract. Gratitude and home go together.
I can organize my life of Thanksgivings in five acts. In Act I, I am a child. My father is in charge of the Thanksgiving turkey. He gets up early and begins the happy ritual of concocting the dressing, stuffing the mixture into the bird, buttering the bird, and taking the top shelf out of the oven so the massive-breasted turkey will fit. Then it cooks all day. My father bastes it and checks its temperature, but his main task is done until it is time to carve the turkey. We salivate as the house fills with the browning smell of poultry.