It was hectic, exhausting and wonderful. The house was full to bursting, comforters, pillows and blankets were unearthed from every corner to cover trundles and couches and air mattresses, because the beds were all full. Twenty-four people shared our Thanksgiving dinner, and fourteen people (including my son and daughter) slept the weekend in our home, which seem unbelievable when you consider we live in an apartment, not a sprawling house.
Two of my nieces (one who lives in Boston, the other visiting us from Jamaica) were applying to college. One sat with her laptop amid a tangle of blankets and legs on the air mattress that spent most of Friday inflated in the middle of the living room. The other sat with her big sister at the kitchen island, which overlooks the living room, and everyone else milled around, warming up leftovers, animatedly chatting and binge watching Suits on Netflix. The soon-to-be-college students seem well prepared for the nonstop socializing that can be college life. They got their essays written amid the chaos, and they had many built in editors on hand, with me, my daughter, and my niece Dani, all of us veterans of this writing life. I think it made things easier for them to be able to talk through what each of their freakin' endless essays and supplements should be about, and then go off and write them. Actually they wrote them while sitting in the middle of everything. They didn't want to miss out on the fun.
My husband appreciated having some men around to keep him company—my son, my niece's fiancé, my cousin's husband, my daughter's boyfriend, who was spending Thanksgiving with us for the first time. "How did he manage?" I asked my girl later. "He was fine," she said, "but I think he was exhausted. He's used to going to dinner and then going home, not celebrating continuously from waking up until 2 a.m. the next morning."
The "kids" really stepped up this year, after my husband called our son and daughter into the kitchen and admitted his back was aching. He'd just pulled the turkey out the oven, and cooked almost everything else as well. All that bending. The good news is he no longer ignores what his body is telling him, after his brush with mortality last year. The kids sent us out of the kitchen and completely took over the warming up of previously made dishes, carving the turkey and the ham, and setting everything out on the table.
I'd cooked my corn and cheese dish the day before, and my girl cooked her apple pies alongside me, so that the kitchen would be free for my husband to do his thing on Thanksgiving Day. He is the main cook, the maker of the turkey and stuffing, the three cheese mac and cheese, the roasted vegetables and broccoli in garlic and oil, the glazed ham. My son makes the sweet potato casserole, my cousin makes the potato salad, one of our guests brings plantains, and others bring assorted pies for dessert. It's quite a feast. And my niece, aka my other daughter, is in charge of making margaritas from scratch after dinner, which kicks off the second part of the evening. We ended up playing a rousing margarita-infused game of charades; hilarity ensued. And at the end of the evening, the three wondrous sister cousins below (photographed at our diner breakfast on Thanksgiving eve) took over the clean up.
On Sunday, people began leaving. One by one the goodbyes were said. Our last guest, my cousin with whom I grew up like a sister, left to catch her flight back to Trinidad on Monday night. My husband and I drove her to the airport in wind and rain. And then it was just the two of us again, and a mountain of bed linens and towels to be laundered. "I love it when everyone comes," my husband said. "And I love when it's just you and me again." I know how he feels. The comfort. Gentle puttering. Deep ease.