While I am a fan of Christmas, I am also a big fan of Thanksgiving and like to give it its proper due. I prefer to save Christmas music and decorations until after Thanksgiving so that I can fully appreciate this time of gratitude, good food, and time with friends and family. As soon as I smell turkey cooking in the oven I am transported back to my grandmother’s house and am watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mighty Joe Young while patiently waiting for dinner to be served.
In 2002, we were unable to fly home for Thanksgiving. Not only is it a heavily traveled holiday, but with where Kevin was in his radiation treatments, we could not take that many days off. Rather, it was decided, that our entire family –parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews- would fly from PA, VA, NJ, and WA to spend Thanksgiving in CA with Kevin and me.
There would be a minimum of 15 of us and Kevin and I each lived in small apartments. We did not want to go to a restaurant for dinner. Our preference was, and continues to be, a homemade Thanksgiving dinner just like Mom and Grandmom’s. To us, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is a home cooked meal with turkey and all of the trimmings. When I say traditional, I am referring to a 1950’s type of tradition which includes Stovetop stuffing, canned cranberry jelly and creamed onions. We love it so much, that we repeat the exact same dinner for Christmas. But I digress…
Somewhere along the line, I don’t remember if it was Kevin’s idea, we thought of the kitchen at the Mondavi Wine and Food Center in Costa Mesa. Years before Kevin had been the catering manager there. It was a beautiful facility
where you could hold private events that featured gourmet food paired exquisitely with Mondavi wines. While he no longer worked there, since he was Kevin, he was still beloved by the staff. There were no events planned for Thanksgiving day and they graciously gave us the keys (and left us some wine) and allowed us to use the space for a family dinner. Everyone pitched in and we set out to cook our traditional Thanksgiving dinner and multitude of pies.
Instead of watching movies while the Turkey cooked, the kids played outside and Kevin entertained us on the piano. Our friends Shelly & Lila dropped in for a visit, making it just like a typical family Thanksgiving transplanted from NJ to CA. Unlike our usual tradition, we were able to eat comfortably around a large table, rather than cramped at table in the smallest possible room. I know that it was special to me and to Kevin, but recently it was Shelly who reminded just how great a day it was.
Thank you so much to the staff at Mondavi for allowing us to have such a perfect day and to make many wonderful memories. Thank you to my family for flying from the far corners to join us, and to our friends who shared in the day with us. It was truly a Thanksgiving to remember.
While this year my family will be scattered about for Thanksgiving, I am grateful and blessed to know that we are with each other in spirit and we carry the memories many wonderful family Thanksgivings of the past in our hearts.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving.