When I was nominated to host my extended family's Thanksgiving this year, I felt conflicted. Having 25 to 35 people at my house for what's expected to be the best meal of the year is a giant responsibility. But it's one I've been eagerly anticipating since I was a kid.
My mom is one of five siblings. To accommodate so many relatives, we've never celebrated on the actual holiday. Thanksgiving dinner always takes place on the Saturday after the last Thursday in November. It's the only day of the year when all of my maternal aunts, uncles and cousins get together. Growing up, I looked forward to Thanksgiving Saturday all year long.
I vividly remember the sweet-and-savory aroma of my aunt's tourtière, the yams with marshmallows, the buttery-smooth feeling of the vinyl-topped card table that served as the kids' table, and my Uncle Jim's boisterous laughter. Thanksgiving Saturday felt like one of the longest days of the year — so much time to play, eat and then eat again the moment I felt a little bit hungry.
When I reached junior high, I recognized that our gathering was also an opportunity to impress the grown-ups with my poise and teenage accomplishments. Between the food, the playtime and the attention, those Saturdays filled me up in every way.
I never thought about how it all came together, never wondered who made which dish or how the event was organized. The grown-ups never seemed stressed or worried; everything just worked. Like magic.
Hosting privileges rotate annually among family members. As a young adult, I lived in tiny New York City apartments, so until I moved to Vermont four years ago, I was never a candidate.
Now I have a big blue house on a hill in Williston, which I chose, in part, for its Thanksgiving suitability. You'd think I'd be excited to finally live out my dream of hosting. Instead, I hesitated.
I'm 37 years old. I've been married for nine years and we have two children. Somehow, none of these things have made me feel like an adult the way preparing for this meal has. It's like some sort of official recognition from the actual adults in my family that I've joined their ranks.
But I like being catered to.
And since I became a parent six years ago, this special occasion is another event at which I feel splintered, unable to participate fully in a meaningful discussion without having to chase my kid off the stairs or break up a fight over so-and-so's thingamajig.
I end up devoting my energy to my kids at these gatherings, and I've yet to contribute so much as a batch of cookies. So when I was tapped to host, I wondered how I would successfully manage the entire meal. I don't even cook. And my husband, I recently learned, will be away for work until Thanksgiving Day.
After freaking out, I called my mom to pass the buck to her. But instead of indulging my childish tantrum, she reminded me that the host is only responsible for cooking the turkey and the mashed potatoes.
"Relax," she said. "Nobody is asking you to do this on your own."
And then it dawned on me: That's how this magnificent feast has always come together. Nobody in the history of our Thanksgiving celebration has ever been expected to pull it off alone.
Being a grown-up, it turns out, means being wise enough to rely on others for help.
My aunts will bring the green-bean casserole, the roasted squash and, of course, the tourtière. They will bake the apple and pumpkin pies, Mom-Mom's crescent rolls, and the gone-before-you-can-grab-one seven-layer bars.
My parents will arrive a day early to help clean the house, set up a couple of giant tables and, most helpful of all, take care of my kids.
So bring it on, November! I'm ready to embrace my official grown-up status. And I'm excited to welcome my family into my home, to fill them up and to live out a childhood dream — in all of my grown-up glory.