Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday when I was growing up. We used to go to my Aunt Louise's house in Canton for our big family dinner. Aunt Louise was my dad's oldest sister, and she and her husband, Uncle Virgil had three children, my cousins Butch, Barbara and Greg. My Grandma Fischer, my Aunt Isabel and my cousin Dave, who all lived together, would be there, and sometimes Uncle Virgil's mother, Mrs. Smith, would join us, as well. Assorted dates and, eventually, spouses of my cousins were sometimes present; it seemed like there was always room at the big table set up in the family room.
My dad was a lot younger than his sisters, and so, of course, we were a lot younger than our cousins. We were the only ones who had left Canton, and, in addition to that, the rest of the family did not like my mother, so we really were the odd ones out. I don't know that either of my brothers liked going there as much as I did, but I loved it. I think I was too much like my mother for either of my aunts' liking, but I was the little princess my boy cousins doted on, and I loved them all right back. In my dad's family I was called "Anne Louise", sharing a family middle name with my cousin, Barbara and, later, her daughter, Chrissy. Being relegated to the kids' table wasn't so bad when at least one of our big cousins always sat with us.
When Ben and I were first married, we spent our Thanksgivings at his parents' house in South Euclid. I loved being there for my favorite holiday. His younger sisters, Liz and Laura, and his brother, Vic, still lived at home then. Later, after they were married, Laura would be there with her first husband, Al, and Liz's husband, Jim was there, as well. My mother-in-law makes the best stuffing in the world - my favorite part of the meal - and she always made enough for us all to have second and third helpings of that and everything else. (They are Italian, after all.) I thought we would always spend our Thanksgivings together that way.
We have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner since we moved to this house seven years ago. My dad and my brother always drive out, and when Bill was dating Laura, he used to bring her along. Tom and Julie were always home for the holiday, and I remember one year Andrew was here, as well, so we set up a "kids' table" for the three of them - probably the only time my kids were relegated there. It is a huge amount of work, but what a great feeling when it is all cleared away, the dishwasher loaded, and the turkey carcass simmering in a stockpot.
This year, Tom and Kristy are in Oklahoma with her family, and my dad and Bill don't want to make the drive. I'm not sure yet whether Andrew will eat here or with his family. Chances are it will be Ben, Julie, and me for dinner. I never imagined our Thanksgivings ending up like this. Well, the food will still be good, even though I never did learn how to make stuffing like my mother-in-law.