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I Inherited Thanksgiving This Year

Photograph by Getty Images

At the end of Thanksgiving last year, my mom announced that she was done hosting the holiday. She ceremoniously presented my cousin Regina with a hand-painted pilgrim that someone gave her long ago. That pilgrim was the torch, and it was time for Regina to carry it.

It made sense. Nobody loves Thanksgiving as much as Regina does—my mom would make my cousin her own pumpkin pie to take home. She and her family had settled into a new house. It was time.

But I guess the giving of a craft-fair pilgrim isn’t the iron-clad agreement I thought was.

“I was thinking,” my mom said a month ago. “Maybe it would be nice if you hosted Thanksgiving this year. It will be a good way for people to see the house.” It’s true: My husband, son and I will soon move into a larger, suburban house. At some point, we’ll have to invite family for a housewarming. Why not on do it on Thanksgiving? Plus, Regina had recently had a baby. Anyway, you don’t really say no to my mom.

“Sure,” I said.

“That’s it?” she asked. “I thought you’d put up more of a fight.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “As long as you and everybody else knows that Thanksgiving isn’t going to look anything like yours.” My mom held up her hands like someone stepping away from the blackjack table.

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For as long as I can remember, my mom has hosted Thanksgiving. And not just hosted—she did everything. She made every dish (with the exception of a few pity desserts she let me make), set the table, ordered the centerpieces, polished both chandelier and the silverware (when I asked her why she just didn’t let my dad do it, she said he probably wouldn’t do it right—which may be correct). It was extraordinary and beautiful, and it absolutely killed her. If you were stupid, you got in my mom’s way the week before Thanksgiving, either by messing something up or questioning her methods. Thanksgiving Day was a balancing act of being available to help but not being around too much. (My primary tasks were filling ice buckets and lighting candles. Sometimes I was allowed to top the homemade soup with homemade crème fraîche or diced chives.)

There’s no way I can come anywhere close to replicating my mom’s Thanksgiving, starting with the fact that we don’t have a table that seats 20. Neither my husband nor I have ever made a turkey (or stuffing or cranberry sauce). We haven’t hosted anything large since our son’s baptism, and even then my mom did most of the work. I plan on using disposable plates, napkins and cups. I know it’s not very green, but I need to make this thing easy enough to pull off. I plan on making—I mean, asking—all the young men in the family to provide alcohol. (I thought about getting the whole thing catered, but that’s crazy expensive. I imagine catering is a pain in the neck in its own right).

It’s what I always tell my engaged friends who worry about turning into bridezillas: Even hosting a regular party is stressful enough, without having to look perfect during it.

I originally wanted to escape the torment that my mom put herself through to get this amazing family meal off the ground. But even with the disposable plates and make-ahead stuff, it’s still stressing me out. I had the whole grocery list and weeklong schedule written up before Nov. 1, just to get it all straight in my head. It was, literally, keeping me awake at night. It’s what I always tell my engaged friends who worry about turning into bridezillas: Even hosting a regular party is stressful enough, without having to look perfect during it. And now I know that for a fact.

I informed my mom of all this, expecting her to be horrified that I was flipping her perfect script. But all she said was, “As long as I don’t have to host it.” She also offered to bring the stuffing, pies and all her Thanksgiving decorations. Then she bought me some new napkins and said she’d iron them for me. (There goes my paper napkin plan.)

I guess it won’t be that different from her Thanksgiving, after all. Thank goodness.

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