Where Did the Mashed Potatoes Go?

The first year I hosted Thanksgiving for our extended family was the year I moved to Westfield.

Unfamiliar with the eating habits of the Hahn family, since we had always lived far away and never been part of a holiday celebration, I assumed I'd have enough food.

And, I did. With one exception. Gravy.

How could 30 people consume so much gravy?

Every few minutes someone would announce that we were "out of gravy." I kept diluting what was left in the kitchen, bringing out weaker and thinner versions, until, finally, there just wasnít anything left to serve.

At that point, one of the nephews firmly told me that "Gravy is the Hahn family's favorite beverage."

This year, there was plenty of gravy. And, for the first time, enough mashed potatoes.

Which wasn't the cake last year, when the mashed potatoes didn't go quite far enough. Gratefully, or thankfully, I can say it wasn't my fault. Wasn't even my dinner or my house, thank you.

So unanimously and firmly blamed another nephew. Well, his wife. The newest spouse in the family. She had convinced him that the pounds and pounds of potatoes heíd planned to cook would be too many. They weren't.

So this year, he showed up lugging 50 pounds of potatoes, and the pot big enough to cook them all in. The Hahns had their fill.

Years from now, the fourth or fifth generation, the sons and daughters of those nephews, will probably still tell the stories that we pass down each year--about gravy, or potatoes, or the pies that the oldest Aunt still makes. Or the year another Aunt forgot to cook the shrimp, and served them raw.

But the best part of the day is, simply, just being there. Sitting at a table marked by a handlettered placecard, with a turkey made out of a lollipop for a favor. Both courtesy of the youngest Hahns.

Watching the kids grow up, viewing the annual slide show that someone always assembles, talking on the phone to family members that aren't there. Teasing the new spouses, or dates, as they learn just how wonderful this huge extended family can be and wondering if they'll ever be able to keep everybody straight.

Saying the prayer before dinner that the family has always said. Although no one remembers why, or where it came from.

We do take time to remember those who were there last year, but will never be there again. That's a little scary, come to think of it.

We used to be the third generation. There were the 80 year olds. The 55 year olds. The 30 year olds. That was us, at first. Then our kids, the teenagers. Now we're the 55s, our kids are the late 20s and early 30s, and the nephews and nieces are 40ish. There are pre-schoolers again. And grade-schoolers too. And couples that haven't had children. (And a brand new baby, circa 1999.)

Retirees, and nurses, salesmen and office workers, sound engineers and architects, students and laboratory workers and researchers. A politician, too.

Just a typical American family. Thankful, this week in particular, just to be together again. For another year. And more memories.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as blessed as ours.

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014