Monday, November 19, 2007

Giving (stress-free) thanks

Okay, here we are practically on the eve of Thanksgiving and many of you are braving grocery store mobs to pick up the turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing ingredients, pie ingredients and whatever else is essential to your annual holiday feast. The idealist in me loves the image of all that hustle and bustle, the aromas wafting through the house, the family descending for a few hours of hopefully civil, if not totally wonderful camaraderie.

Experience, however, has been less than blissful. Maybe it's because I'm not the world's best cook. Maybe it's because at least some of my family -- not me, of course -- is dysfunctional. Or maybe it's simply that through the years I've watched the reason for the holiday -- giving thanks for life's blessings -- get lost in a stressed out haze of food preparation, arguments and watching an entire meal that took hours to prepare disappear in the blink of an eye. I admit it, I'm jaded. I was, after all, a journalist. It goes with the cynical territory.

That said, I do love Thanksgiving and the whole idea of taking one day to be grateful for all the things we tend to take for granted the rest of the year. . . including our dysfunctional families. And I love turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie.

So, more and more in recent years I've joined friends or extended family members for Thanksgiving dinner in a favorite restaurant. No muss, no fuss, no frayed tempers. Truly reasons to be thankful. I'm doing that again on Thursday, getting together with good friends for a relaxed celebration. Not one of us will have to bake a turkey or a pie. None of us will have to get lumps out of the gravy. And there will be no dishes to load into a dishwasher afterwards, at least not by us.

Maybe the meal won't be exactly the same as what I remember from my childhood. The recipes may vary, though I suspect the chef's skills will exceed mine, or those of anyone in my family.
And, best of all, I will have all that extra time to give thanks for family and friends and for you, the many readers who've been in touch with me over the years. I wish you the joy of a homecooked meal, if that is a tradition dear to your heart, but more importantly I wish you a gathering of friends and family who mean everything to you. And for those of you separated from loved ones, I wish you a speedy and safe reunion at the first opportunity.

In the meantime, if you have a favorite Thanksgiving tradition or recipe you'd like to share with us, please do. And for those of you planning to brave airports or highways, be safe and share your travel tales with us once you're home. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Sherryl Woods

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