That photo, taken by my niece, was probably the only good photo I got from Thanksgiving, or as it is more appropriately called, Indigenous People's Day. I'll probably still use Thanksgiving as shorthand, meaning nothing to do with the story of Pilgrims welcoming Indigenous people to their table, if indeed they did deign to break bread with them, talk about historical gaslighting. As an immigrant, I didn't have that story fed to me at the knee, and so I choose to use the word Thanksgiving in its most literal sense, a day to give thanks. I did field my usual anxiety during the early rounds; it's always nerve wracking to get everything cooked in our small galley kitchen, and onto the table warm at the same time. But somehow we always manage it.
We hosted a much smaller gathering than usual, just the seven folks staying in our home, plus my son and his fiancee. My girl and her guy and their pup, and my cousin from Trinidad have been here all week. And my niece who lived with us for almost two years post college, is staying over for the weekend, returning to Brooklyn on Sunday. My niece who is at college in Minneapolis flew in to join the festivities, as did her older sister and her husband, who live in Dallas. I sorely missed my other cousin and her husband and older daughter, who live in Orlando, and didn't make it this year. On the day itself, the parents of my niece's husband also joined us from Brooklyn. Everyone was fully vaccinated and most already boosted.
My man does almost all the cooking, but for the corn and cheese casserole that I contribute, and the dish my son makes, sweet potato casserole, using his grandma's recipe. The man makes the turkey and stuffing, the baked ham with honey mustard glaze, the broccoli in garlic and oil, the three-cheese mac and cheese, and jalapeno cornbread. This year he also made cheesecakes with three different toppings (blackberry, raspberry, and caramel), and our daughter made two yummy apple pies. A guest also brought a rich German chocolate cake. We didn't have potato salad or plantains this year, as the people who usually make those weren't here.
I finally exhaled once the meal was on the table. We stood in a big circle holding hands as my husband gave thanks for our beloveds being able to gather and enjoy it. I always love that moment. Just like when I was a kid, I never close my eyes for the grace. Instead I look around at everyone's beautiful faces, and my daughter is always looking, too, and we smile and wink at each other conspiratorially. Wine flowed as the meal was consumed, and later, we made margaritas, which I suppose is now a tradition. We talked and laughed and told stories till late into the night as usual, with me periodically packing the dishwasher, and then my daughter moved everyone out of the kitchen so she could clean up and put away leftovers. Her cousins soon pitched in to help. I fell into bed at midnight with every joint and muscle aching, but I was relieved and happy to have pulled off the feast with all these people I love for yet another year.
The Day After
We lounged around in kaftans and sweats, eating leftovers and binge watching Ten Perfect Strangers on Hulu. It turned out to be quite a creepy show, even though it had some weird version of a happy ending. Afterward, we all needed lightness and air, so we turned on The Great British Baking Show and cheerfully watched all the good-humored, real seeming people creating marvelous baked showstoppers, while puppy Munch trotted among us giving his baleful stare that said well, aren't you going to get up and feed me?
My son called in the middle of the day on Friday to say seven guys at his fire house had tested positive for Covid the day before, all of them vaccinated. I don't believe any of them were very sick, if they showed any symptoms at all, but my son went off to get rapid tested himself after informing us we had all potentially been exposed. We were happy then that the gathering had been relatively small. We only had to make one contact tracing call, to my niece's husband's parents. There was some relief when my son's antigen test came back negative. He will still do the gold standard PCR test when he goes in to work this evening, as the Fire Dept. is concerned about the sudden cluster of breakthrough cases and will be testing personnel at the start of all tours for the next couple of weeks.
Just Life, Really
We were all strangely calm when we got the news that we were being contact traced. I suppose this is just the way life is, now. My cousin will get tested on Monday, as she is traveling back to Trinidad on Wednesday and has to present a negative PCR test, and the man and I are supposed to be taking a jaunt to Belize in December, for which we will need to get tested and present negative Covid tests, too. Okay, I've run out of steam so here are some rather poor quality photos from my ancient phone camera. It might be time for a new one.
It's "no-shave November," but FDNY regulations say our boy isn't allowed to grow a beard as it would interfere with the proper seal of his protective mask, so he grew a mustache instead. He'll shave it off again on December 1, which none of us minds, as we're not used to him with a 'stache. There he is with his mama and one of his very favorite aunts.
Our son's fiancee joined us for the feast; she usually does this day with her family in New Jersey. We loved having her with us for once, it made the gathering feel more complete.
I read on an Instagram post called "Rules for Thanksgiving" that "nobody want's to see your food table." Well, there it is anyway.
Our children develop rituals with their loves. These two have decided that he comes to us for Thanksgiving, which we make a fuss about, and she goes to his family for Christmas, since they have extended family gatherings and we are always very low key.
I'm pretty sure it never occurred to them when they decided to join us for the meal, that they'd be contact traced the next day. I pray everyone stays healthy and symptom free.
What can we all do, really, but keep on keeping on? And doesn't Munch look rather cozy snuggled in our midst? I hope you all had the day you wanted this year. As for me? I'm over here doing my best to take life one little moment, one breath at a time.