Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Best Thanksgiving Ever

Over the years, I have had a lot of great Thanksgiving dinners. When I was little, I loved getting together with the cousins at Grama's house. She always set such an elegant table and I have fond memories of sleeping over the night before to "help" her get things ready.

As I got older, I enjoyed helping my mother host the big day. Mom also made everything pretty and always inspired a spirit of gratitude as we were encouraged to share our blessings and to sing, laugh and play together.

In my adulthood, I have spent Thanksgiving on the beach in Hawaii, eating deep-fried turkey in my in-laws' Arizona backyard, around many lovely tables with dear friends and sweet family. But my favorite Thanksgiving dinner of all time was actually the first one I made all on my own...

The year was 1990 and I was a 20-year-old newlywed. We lived in the most decrepit basement apartment Provo, Utah had to offer. Our shower was painted blue. The upstairs neighbors were ex-cons and alcoholics. The furniture was an eclectic mix of hand-me-downs and cast-offs. Our favorite pieces were our 1970's waterbed (thanks, Aunt Mary!) and our 1500 lb. console television with accompanying "floating" remote control (thanks, Grampa Jiggs!).

Brad and I both worked and went to school full-time. We wanted to complete our college degrees without student loans or help from our parents which meant we were very, very poor. So poor that Brad worked all-night shifts at a phone center. So poor that I'd actually beg the ex-con neighbors for use of their washing machine to save the cost of the laundromat. So poor that we ate store-brand macaroni & cheese and hand-me-down food storage.

When our first Thanksgiving rolled around, we were excited to be included in a family reunion at a winter resort. Four days off work and school, turkey in a fancy restaurant and all-night games and goodies with the family sounded like such a treat. Still, we were a new little family ourselves and needed to start our own traditions, too.

So, two days before the big day, I spent an entire month's grocery budget on a huge turkey and all the trimmings. I made Jello and rolls and stuffing and potatoes and gravy and salad and pie. There was no dishwasher, of course. So, I would cook and wash and cook and wash and cook and wash.

It was my first turkey and I remember being terrified, but excited. I also remember that my feet were killing me by the end of the day. How did Mom manage to have everything hot and ready at the same time? How did Grama get her gravy lump-free?

I pulled out my wedding china and candlesticks and set a romantic table for two. And when my handsome new husband walked through that door, I felt like the original domestic goddess. Everything tasted delicious, which was a good thing, since we would be eating turkey in some form or other for the next six weeks. I don't know that my cooking was so great, but just the fact that we weren't eating corn-dogs was a blessing all its own.

(Our first Thanksgiving...please note the Brillo-pad perm, the console-tv-as-dining-buffet, the Peruvian mission souvenir wall-decor, and the multi-color sweater vest which was my favorite go-to outfit of the day...)

If you had told the two of us on that November night in 1990 that someday we would live in a great big house with a sunny, yellow dining room and four happy, hyper, healthy children and a mini-van and a backyard and our own washer and dryer and four bathrooms without blue showers and a dishwasher to boot, I think we would have been excited, but not too surprised.

And, I think, if you had told us to cherish our first little folding-table, basement-dwelling, budget-busting, newlywed-Thanksgiving as one of our happiest, most grateful moments, we would have giggled and rolled our eyes.

But, you would have been right...

14 comments:

Celia Fae said...

I think we might have lived next door to you. And purchased our table at the same place.

I loved that story, Gab. I wish I would have been as ambitious as you were then.

gab said...

Celia Fae...Do you mean you were the alcoholic ex-cons? I thought I recognized you...

Bridget said...

That was a great story. I have great memories of our studio apartment in Provo too. Although I never did my own turkey as a poor student, I do have photos of me happily cleaning behind the 1940's (no joke!) refrigerator only to find a stiff dead mouse.

Denae said...

Great story! I still haven't had that first Thanksgiving! I mean I have never yet cooked my own meal. We've always gone to family's house. Well this year they're all coming to mine and I am nervous!

Great perm, by the way! I had that same look once!

Marty said...

That was a fabulous start to your Thanksgiving traditions. I especially love the sweater. I think I even wore that a few times.

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

I loved this! Thank heavens for newlywed apartments, bad perms, and post-mission decor. It does make you grateful! We can't wait to spend yet another year with you and your darlings!

lainakay said...

And the sacrifices all paid off! I wish I had been more willing to sacrifice at that age! In retrospect I missed out on so many things because I had such specific ideas about how things "should" be.

I admire your courage in tackling the turkey at such a young age. I still haven't done that yet!

As usual, a wonderful and inspiring story! Thanks!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Rochelleht said...

Oh, I just loved that! I LOVE reading your blog. Just puts a smile on my face every time! That was great. I so noted the Peruvian wall decor! You were a sweet newly-wed wife. Our Equadorian decor got left at the in-law's house day after the wedding...

marta said...

hip hooray for the first homemade thanksgiving. i did our first in california, purchasing everything the eve of on a total whim. anyway, your life gives me reason to dream big! way to go, gab!

Heidiram said...

I loved this story. Thanks so much for sharing. Sometimes I feel like I got gypped out of not participating in the newlywed/poor student BYU lifestyle. (I ended up getting married a couple of years after graduating from BYU and moving back to Cali.) Happy Thanksgiving!
P.S. I totally recognized your Peruvian decor in the background, since my best friend is Peruvian. Have you tried Peruvian food? I wish I knew how to cook Peruvian food so we could have a couple Peruvian side dishes as part of our Thanksgiving dinner. YUMMY!

John Holly Levi & Faith said...

I loved this story and loved the fact that you were so ambitious and made your own thanksgiving dinner; a feat I have yet to accomplish. And the sweater... I think we all had one of those with the hair to match. Loved it!

Cecily R said...

What a great story!

I still, in my 12th year of marriage have yet to feel grown up enough to tackle a turkey.

Maybe when I turn 40. :)

P.S. Found you from Dancin Queen.

Lisa-Marie said...

LOVED this post. I am impressed and graetful for the for the boost you gave me to keep trugging along in our itty bitty house and tight budget in hopes that someday I wil look back and remember these days with fondness too!!! THANKS!

How is the Lyme disease?

Polly said...

I loved hearing about your first Thanksgiving. It's fun to host Thanksgiving..pretty much my favorite holiday, because it reminds us to be grateful.

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