If it's Thanksgiving in my house there's probably chaos brewing. A couple of years ago my husband decided we had to repaint the kitchen before Christmas and the only long weekend to do it was Thanksgiving weekend. He chose gorgeous colors and set to work and while the walls and ceiling were easy enough the cabinets were a total pain. I don't remember exactly what type of paint it was but I do remember it stayed tacky through the following Friday and didn't harden enough to actually put the doors back on till a few days before Christmas.
The Sunday of that Thanksgiving weekend my brother and sister-in-law and their six kids came for a visit and it was indeed chaotic: stuff from the kitchen was piled in the living room, the igniter in the oven wasn't kicking on, our dog was not pleased that their dog was in his house, etc. As a hostess it was far from my finest moment but as I was struggling with getting something in the oven my brother said, "Jazz. It's cool. We're here to see you. We know you can't cook and we love you anyway." I relaxed, we sent the kids outside to enjoy the unseasonably warm day, separated the dogs and just visited. The food didn't matter. My brother's generosity did.
I am always conflicted about holiday dinners themselves. The ones from my childhood were fraught with tension, the type that people are joking about when they say the secret ingredient in their stuffing is Xanax (note to the South: stuffing. Dressing is something you put on salad; stuffing is the stuff you stuff in the turkey. Don't make me come down there. ;) ). If you've never sat through a dinner where your wishbone wish was that everyone would just get over The Time That I Didn't Mean What You Thought I Said that's been raging since at least 1967 and pass the damn candied yams already you may not get that. The rest of you, have a beer, if Uncle Fred hasn't sneaked them all into the garage yet.
So, I have baggage and in my twenties a lot of it was still freshly packed. I spent three Thanksgivings in Seattle and for the first I quite willingly bought a ticket for the guilt trip that someone in my family set up for me. The plans I'd made fell through at the last minute and though I'd met a bunch of people in the not-quite-a-month I'd been in town I didn't feel comfortable imposing myself anywhere so I made a date with Harry Connick Jr.'s album "Red Light, Blue Light" and settled in. Then Cindy called and asked what I was doing. Cindy was one of the people I'd met my first night in town, jet lagged and intimidated and thrown into the deep end by our mutual friend. She and I had talked and hung out a few times and got along like a house on fire so she was indignant that I hadn't called her to begin with when my first plans fell through and, no no, stay right where I was, her boyfriend was on the way out the door to come and get me. There is nothing that will destroy a rumination over how much your life sucks than someone who is willing to love you fiercely and without question.
The following Thanksgiving Cindy and her boyfriend were sharing a house with another couple. Huge space + huge kitchen + Cindy's huge heart = Orphan Thanksgiving. Everyone was welcome whether she'd personally invited them or not. My boyfriend had gone home to Chicago for the holiday so I went with Lala, my Burning Man friend. Lala took home baked bread. The new boyfriend of another friend brought homemade pierogies and as we were talking about them he mentioned he was from Pittsburgh and he'd used his grandmother's recipe. I brought soda because, well, I can't cook.
Out of curiosity I counted how many people came through the door but I gave up after a while. Cindy found space and food and love for all of us. Her warmth and generosity brought us together, fed us till we ached, poured till we were all good and snockered and giggly and sent us back out a little more sure that there was good in the world. All it takes is one person and on that Thanksgiving it was her. Thank you, Cindy. You gave me a place to set my baggage down for a day and of all the things I have to be thankful for in my life that was huge. Love you, girlfriend.