When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a big deal. If we were lucky my older sisters who had married and moved away would come home for a visit and regardless of how many came, my mother always made room at the table. As the family grew, so did the amount of tables to hold us all which some years was three.

I never wondered where I would sit because I already knew. I had a special plate that I always ate from which was pink, with a high one inch rim around it so it could also be used as a bowl but my brother called it my dog dish — which I’m now wondering if that’s what it was all along. Either way, I used it to stake my claim at the left of my dad.

And I couldn’t wait for grace because that was when I got to join hands with my dad and it made me feel like a princess. Of course my brother was usually on the other side of me and he would only allow me to hold his baby finger because I was a girl and girls had cooties.

It was a noisy fun filled day of families getting together and feasting on every kind of food they could think of. As each one married they’d bring a favorite dish of their new spouse, adding to the menu. Sometimes it took as long as 15 minutes to get the food passed around and plates filled.

Of course I only took turkey and mashed potatoes. I was a skinny kid who didn’t like anything else. I don’t know when I first tried stuffing but when I did I began to heap a tall mound on my plate and not give a care about the suckers at the end of the line who might not get any. I want to say I was 11 or 12 because by the time I was 13 all that stuffing took up residence in my thighs.

The real drawback was that my parents only had one bathroom and lines were formed every few hours. When I finally had a home with three bathrooms we moved the party to my house and I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving ever since. Even after both of my parents passed on, my siblings still come here. Well, all but one. She and I are very close but her family grew so fast and furious she found it calmer to stay home and cook for them. 

I assumed this Thanksgiving would be like all the others but when the virus cases soared, one by one my children all decided to stay home to cook their own feasts, leaving three daggers in my heart – still quivering from the sudden impact. Then my sister and nephew who live out of town felt they should stay home, too. This can’t be happening! So all in all, I was down to three guests this year — one sister, my brother and his wife.

I knew the day would be different, I just wasn’t sure in what way. I thought maybe I’d get to spend more quality time with my brother. (Not really, as he had his nose in the football game most of the time.) Since bingo prizes were brought I thought maybe we could play something other than bingo for a change. (We did but the games took too long to play and we’d be up till midnight before we ran out of prizes, so we went back to bingo.)

If I’m to be honest, I found it easier to feed five people than 18, and we weren’t bouncing off each other like a live pinball game as we tried to get all the food on the table at the same time. Clean up was quicker and my sister and I had a blast winning all the prizes as my sister-in-law called the numbers.

It was a good day. But it wasn’t quite the same. There were no overnight guests to play Scrabble with. No Cinderella sweeping my floors for me, no one to help with my 1000 piece puzzle.

Everyone says it’s just this one time and we’ll all get together next year.

Please God, let there be next year.

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