Here's how our holiday breaks down.
Wednesday Afternoon: we swing by and pick up my gram and head down to my folk's house. The house is already a Thanksgiving disaster - it's the one day of the year my sister bakes pies, and she cuts loose and gets in touch with her inner Martha Stewart. My dad puts the toddler in charge of something fun, like the apple peeler/corer/slicer. We all try not to trip over the myriad of animals dancing around the kitchen. Then, completely whipped from making food, we go out to eat and then collapse in front of the t.v. Gram and Dad will fall asleep sitting up while the rest of us do the preliminary Black Friday battle plan.
Thanksgiving morning: Dad has been up since four. I usually get up between five and six - not quite early enough to figure out the secrets of gizzards, but more than early enough to have the apple juice secret down pat. There may or may not be a toddler helping, and again, assorted dogs just praying to their little doggie God that Dad will drop that bird at any time. (It's never happened, but a dog can dream, right?) Once the bird is in the cooker, I do clean-up/damage control while Dad makes cinnamon rolls. Various family members begin to trickle in and kind of flop around, like sleeping until 8 was just soooo challenging for them. (I kid, but they are pretty useless until they've had their coffee.)
Cooking continues apace. My hubby, God bless him, has stepped in to help out with some of the cooking - he does homemade mashed potatoes (adding both sour cream and cream cheese . . . oh, so good) and keeps an eye on the portobella mushrooms and mac and cheese. I fry apples and try to keep an eye on the rolls, but they will over-brown, every single year. They always do. Finally, as everyone else has gotten cleaned up and is getting hungry, Dad hefts that bird out of the oven and nicks off a piece for Mom to nibble. Mom always gets the first nibble, and promptly pronounces it Dad's best turkey ever. I make gravy while Dad carves, and then it's dinner, buffet style, usually by 2.
A food-induced coma occurs.
By 6, people are beginning to perk back up. The Black Friday battle plan is nailed down, the brave try all five kinds of pies and my homemade maple nut cheesecake, and Dad snores from his recliner.
Friday Morning: we live out in the country, so to be anywhere by 7 a.m. we all have to leave the house by 6. One year we tried to be at an opening at 6, and we just couldn't do it. We're dedicated, but not completely insane. We abandon the toddler to the Gram and Dad and head out. Black Friday is like a date for me and my hubby - we eat meals out, we walk around holding hands, we talk - all without a kid. It is a bit of a damper than my sisters, brother-in-law, and mother are there, but it is close enough to a date for us. We do all our Christmas shopping. (My sisters and I buy each other clothes. We try stuff on, and if one of the sisters likes how that looks on me, she says, "I'll get that for you," and I do the same. It's a little like What Not To Wear, Christmas Edition.)
We all straggle back home at some point between 2 and 5 to find the house a fun-house disaster of toy explosions from Pawpaw/Grandkid fun. We decide we don't care, eat more turkey, and all go to sleep by 8. We get up the next morning, drive to my in-laws' house, and repeat.
Every year, I am thankful for these rituals. I'm thankful that my in-laws let my family have this holiday (they get Easter). I'm thankful that I know the apple juice secret. I'm thankful that my toddler gets to cook with his Pawpaw, and then spend the next day just hanging out with him. I'm thankful Gram makes it to another holiday. I'm thankful that my hubby good-naturedly laughs at all my Dad's jokes, even the ones he's already heard dozens of times. I'm thankful for getting to hang out with my sisters, and I'm thankful that the brothers-in-laws are cool about all our family's quirks. I'm thankful that the day is filled with laughter, food, and love (with the occasional cursing at over-browned rolls).
Even in these difficult times, there is something to be thankful for. I'm so grateful I'm here, and that you, Dear Reader, are here, too.