Thanksgiving was a big deal when we were kids. It was hosted every year at my grandparent’s or our house. There'd be as many as 25 or 30 people crowded around a make-shift table made of plywood and sawhorses that was laden with a huge turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, gravy, jello and cottage cheese salad, break-apart rolls, celery sticks, Uncle George’s pickles and black olives from a can. Gina and I would make little decorations for the table, like pilgrim's hats or name cards with turkey hands. It was all very Norman Rockwell.
But then my father’s generation began to divorce, move and otherwise disband. So sometime in my twenties we spent Thanksgiving at the cabin for the first time.
That year, we cooked a turkey on the grill as the one nod to our previous holiday traditions. Each year that followed up there, the meal improved and expanded. By our last year at the cabin as a family, in 1995, we prepared an entire Thanksgiving feast and Lauren had picked up the decorating thread thanks to Lisa.
That year, my father and his wife, Mary were there. My brother and his girlfriend whose name I can’t remember were there. My friend Sean came as my date and my sister, her then-boyfriend and Lauren, who was five at the time, were also there. We were a scary bunch, the first “modern family.”
My siblings and our dates spent the weekend hiking, playing games and generally driving my dad and Mary crazy. As a family we ate big meals together and drank a lot of wine, including a mulled wine that Ronnie’s girlfriend brought.
She brought the wine in a giant Almaden jug. We’d heat it up in batches and drink a cup slowly, each time commenting on how awful it was.
On the second or third night, Lauren walked around the table as we sat there talking and sipping that wine. As she taped us, she said over and over, “I see you.” As she approached my brother, he said “I see you,” to her. And then to the table, “We’ll all be in the I.C.U. if we keep drinking this wine.”
When I watch that video and listen to all of us laugh, I am reminded of that crazy weekend and how funny Ronnie was.