I can flash back to so many childhood Thanksgivings, whether we were gathering at our house in Hinsdale or driving to my aunt and uncle’s on the North Shore or heading somewhere else (one year in particular I remember we did Thanksgiving on a farm in Wisconsin!). We ate all the Turkey Day classics, reunited with cousins, and went around the table to share what we were thankful for that year. Then, when I was old enough, I sipped wine with the grown-ups and helped prepare the meal.
For my 29th Thanksgiving, the day would look a little bit different. We planned to gather at our home in Lincoln Park — 18 of us! — to share a festive dinner and life updates. It marked my first-time playing hostess, Andrew’s first time cooking a turkey, and our first time opening up our home for a holiday.
My mom came over a few days before to help us get ready. We set three tables — one big group at the dining room table, another group at our round entry table, and one more group at the kitchen table — and arranged vases of Trader Joe’s prettiest roses. She taught me how to properly care for a grocery store rose (pull off the bottom leaves, cut at an angle, roll the rose bud between your fingers, and blow into it!), and made sure we had everything we needed. What would I do without her? Everything I know about hosting, I learned from my mom!
On the day of, Andrew was up early to prepare the turkey using one of Ina Garten’s tried-and-true recipes. He had purchased a 21-pound bird, and getting it ready to roast was not for the faint of heart. If you know Andrew, you know he is the kind of guy who takes his cooking very seriously — and this hefty turkey was no exception!
Just after four, our first guests pressed the door buzzer, and that was that! The night flew by. My mom’s appetizers were a hit, everyone’s side dishes hit the spot, and finally, Andrew’s turkey was the best I’d ever had. I had a teeming plate of Thanksgiving classics and a dirty martini — yum!
At one point, I looked around at my cousins (we are all in our 20s now) and felt old. No, not in a bad way, I promise! A nostalgic way. How did I get here? I wondered. Just yesterday I was a 10-year-old at the kids’ table, and suddenly I am a wife, mother, and hostess. A grown-up Melanie!
This year, I am so, so thankful for my handsome and jack-of-all-trades husband, my precious daughters, my parents and brothers, and my extended family. I’m thankful for a roof over my head — our beautiful home! — and the chance to welcome my family in for a meal. I’m thankful for all of God’s great blessings this year, and His steadfast love through every up and every down.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours — I hope you had a good day, too.