It’s probably a significant understatement to say that Thanksgiving 2020 will be unlike any we’ve previously experienced, but … here we are.
We are living through – and, hopefully, will survive – a pandemic.
Who’d a thunk it?
Nope, never had a Thanksgiving like this and we’d be very happy if there are no repeats.
However, one thing that is the same this year for us, and probably for many of you, is that, regardless of how we celebrate – or don’t – memories of Thanksgivings past step to the front of the line in our mind’s “highlight reel”. So, if you will indulge us, we’d like to share a couple of those past highlights.
Coming of age in the 50’s on the South side of Chicago, some of my (Steve) fondest early Thanksgiving memories were, and still are, of gatherings that frequently included someone I would be meeting for the first time. Quite often, family members would be augmented by a friend or two who, otherwise, would have been spending the day by themselves or, in some cases, happened to be in Chicago for the first time and didn’t know many people, so one of us invited them to join us.
My recollection is that these additions always added to the festiveness of the occasion and enlivened the conversation. For some reason, the dessert part of the meal always seemed to be the point of the evening when the conversation got really good. I don’t know if it was because everyone was stuffed and feeling relaxed or just that, by that time in the evening, even a newcomer was feeling more like they were with friends and began opening up. Or, it might have been my Dad’s inquisitive nature and ability to make sure everyone was included in the conversation. Now that I think of it, he would have made a very good talk show host. In any case, those early Thanksgiving memories always make me smile.
After we got married, Thanksgiving became one part of a two-pronged holiday celebration that included spending Thanksgiving, in Munster, Indiana, with Steve’s brother Lee and his husband, John, at their house. Then they, along with some extended family, headed north to spend Christmas at our house. John became known as “Chef John” and, for decades, his stuffin’ muffin recipe became a requested part of our Thanksgiving shows on WGN radio.
Sadly, our host extraordinaire, John, passed away a few years ago. We know he’d be happy that we continue the tradition of eating on his fine china and that chutney, rutabaga and stuffin’ muffins remain on the menu.
In more recent years, our Thanksgiving tradition continued, preceded by our “over the river and through the woods” drive to Munster where, shortly after arriving, unpacking the car and greeting Lee and some wonderful extended family friends, Johnnie’s Dad, also named John, follows the already tempting smells to the kitchen with his knives in hand and begins carving the turkey as Johnnie oversees the annual, after dinner, pie extravaganza.
Believe it or not, some years we tried to have one pie for every person in attendance, most of them made by Johnnie! We really don’t remember when or how this pie tradition got started but, trust us, no one objects to it!
As was the case in the early 50s Thanksgivings, along with the holiday warmth that is accentuated by Lee’s decorations (For example, the movie posters in his entertainment room are changed to match the season!) and the wonderful meal, one of the real highlights of the evening continues to be the fun and fascinating conversational journeys that unfold as the evening, too soon, plays out.
Yes, we know how fortunate we are to have moments like these to look back on. Sadly, far too many people have never known and will never know the luxury of having a “highlight reel” to call on in a year like 2020.
This year, like many of you, Thanksgiving gatherings with a house full of people will be the stuff of memories and conversations as we do our best to stay safe … and survive what 2020 has brought to our table.
At our house, the two of us along with Johnnie’s Dad, who lives with us, will make a new kind of Thanksgiving memory. In Munster, along with Tim, a dear extended family friend, Lee will do the same.
It’s fair to say that, along with recalling some of Thanksgiving’s best from our past, we’ll also spend a little time looking to the future and hoping that this time next year we’ll be able to enjoy the holidays with houses filled with people … and hug every one of them.
Oh, just one more thing…
Flying in the face of 2020, the Wonderful Tree Lady arrived to spread her magic throughout our house. We thought it was only appropriate to share some of that magic with friends, so here you go.
Then, this little guy saw the lights and rode over to see what was going on.
And then, some friendly pilgrims came by to share a recipe or two. For some strange reason, the turkey quickly ducked out right after this picture was taken.
From our house to your house, we wish you a holiday season filled with warm, special, memories that you’ll treasure for a long time.
Steve & Johnnie