Mama Madison: The best family holiday

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy, not stress over

Over the years, Thanksgiving has evolved into one of my very favorite holidays. I am not romanticizing religious pilgrimage. I believe it was, and continues to be, very hard work.

And yes, my family has been exposed to enough Howard Zinn over the years to realize things probably didn't turn out so well for the Wampanoag after that initial feast in 1621. But what the holiday has come to represent almost 400 years later works really well for me.

First, it is the only time all year that I can answer the incessant question moms across America dread to hear - "What's for dinner?" And I can answer it 364 days in advance. Most days I can't even answer at 5 o'clock.

It is also the perfect opportunity for me to play kitchen Tom Sawyer - creating the illusion that I am actually cooking something, but really getting my husband, sisters, sisters-in-law and gourmand son to do the culinary heavy-lifting. And because this is a holiday pretty much dedicated to kitchen prowess, and I am a lousy cook, no one has any expectations of me - hooray! I could go on forever... I love a parade, an excuse for a kid's table (I think I'd have one every night if I could), and our yearly discussion of whether pink turkey is safe for consumption if grilled.

But when I try to carve a little deeper, I think what I like very best about Thanksgiving is that it takes place at our place. We own it: it is ours. Some years it has been in a small rented apartment, other years, in a house. Some years it has been all friends, others all family. But every year it has been our living room, our kitchen, and our questionably raw turkey. I love walking into the family room after dinner, and seeing my mom, husband, and nephews all squeezed uncomfortably on the couch trying to watch a football game.

One could argue our house just isn't big enough for our ever- increasing extended family; we don't even fit around the table anymore. But pumpkin pie stains on the couch notwithstanding; I wouldn't have it any other way. I remind myself that what we are doing is not entertaining, but sharing our space with those we love. And as Barney, Cookie Monster and Myles Standish have all taught us, sharing is a very important thing to do.

I love that on the third Thursday in November I don't need to make pilgrimage anywhere further than my basement to dig up the turkey platter. And I've always had a thing for square-toed shoes with buckles. But, I know that not everyone is a Thanksgiving person. Which holiday makes you and your family feel most at home?

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