Walsh's Wonderings — Thanksgiving dinner

Robert F. Walsh
Robert F. Walsh

Thanksgiving is the one holiday that provides instructions for its celebration right in the name. While it has morphed into one of football’s High Holy Days, it remains one of America’s best occasions for a true family meal. The level of gratitude for that meal varies by family and the amount of political banter your mom allows at the table.

For me, Thanksgiving was an annual opportunity to experience enforced humility. The sixth of seven children, holiday dinners had seats for the whole family but speaking parts for only a few. Even if my younger sister could figure out something important to say, we might as well have been talking to the turkey. It was like watching television while eating except we kept being asked to pass the gravy and spent most of the meal angry because someone ate the last of the canned cranberries.

Somehow, without ever discussing it, my siblings and I sat at our dinner table by order of birth, boys on one side and girls on the other. My parents sat on either end, poised to referee fights and, in the case of my mom, set the plates/clear the plates/take the potatoes out of the oven/feed the dog/find the little butter knife/apply the Band-Aid/start the dishwasher/empty the dishwasher/load the dishwasher again/set up the dessert table/bring out the coffee, and so on.

I was always a little disappointed she didn’t show more gratitude on this sacred day.

We didn’t have a “kids’ table,” but the left side of the table served as one. Most of the talking happened on the “adult” side, allowing me several opportunities to sneak my green beans to our dog underneath the table. As we grew up, I learned that family dynamics like this rarely change. In my case, I realized my older brothers and sisters weren’t dominating the conversations, they simply had better things to say.

Mothers are often the heroes of this holiday, and none more so than my mom. My poor mother rose at dawn every Thanksgiving morning to make the stuffing for the turkey, masterfully juggling the baking times of various breads, muffins and rolls as she prepared a buffet dinner for her family of nine (assuming no other guests arrived). She’d spend the next 10 hours cooking, cleaning, vacuuming, and happily asking if we had any laundry that needed cleaning while her ungrateful children lazily watched television and asked if she’d be making anything for lunch.

Ironically, my lasting memories of Thanksgiving are not the lavish dinners she’d spend all day preparing. Instead, it was the overwhelming sense of love my mom weaved throughout our house. Thanksgiving dinner was simply a magnification of what she’d done for us every day of the year. We might have been too young or immature to appreciate all her sacrifices in the moment, but we always knew how lucky we were to have each other. Her children have grown and have families of their own now, but they grow more and more thankful every year for this amazing gift.

Here’s to all the moms who sacrifice so much for so little in return. May we all find ways to express our thanks, even if asked to help clean up before the game’s over.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.