Debra-Lynn B. Hook
I start prepping for Thanksgiving when the last of the Reese’s Pieces is doled out to the last trick-or-treating Spider-Man.
I start as soon as is ethically reasonable because, first of all, I love Thanksgiving as much as I love snow, even in April (sorry, Ohio).
Second of all, linens and dishes and silver don’t always get returned to their rightful place the year before.
This means I will need time and patience to scrounge through multiple bins in the basement, including the one marked “Thanksgiving” that somehow now holds Easter baskets.
This year, I am being driven by something else — that is, my husband’s death at the beginning of autumn. I feel the whole family weighted down by the trauma and grievance of his swift demise from dementia, and so yes, please, on to garlands around the chandelier and the comfort of family tradition.
As meaningful as anything is the table.
It will take much seeking this year to locate the centerpiece, a colorful porcelain turkey platter I found at a flea market when we lived in Missouri 25 years ago. The platter is big enough for a 15-pound turkey and a 5-pound tofu turkey roast and garish enough for Moulin Rouge; you’d think it would be obvious.
This year, though, two of the kids had moved back into the house to help with their dad and — in their hurry to get settled — stuffed things on top of things in the basement, which means I will find the platter hidden in a bin on the pingpong table underneath some soccer uniforms, circa 2015.
Inside this bin, too, is where I will find the half-empty box of silverware from Steve’s childhood.
The collection has always provided butter knives and forks for our celebratory meals, but no spoons, as they got left in a sandbox somewhere when Steve was 8.
I am particularly determined this year to find the silverware, such as it is.
Predictably, I will easily locate my late mother’s assorted dishes and my aunt’s china, which I inherited when she died last year, which got returned to the same cupboard in the kitchen because I put them there, though I still haven’t found the tablecloth , which I’m also sure my righteous self put in the rightful linen closet in the hallway.
Not finding the tablecloth gives me an excuse, meanwhile, to update, from the vintage plaid cloth I’ve always used to a Pottery Barn ivory linen with designer place mats, which will surely impress my son’s new minimalist girlfriend.
Tiera will be a welcome new addition to the table, as will my new little grandson. He will be 5 months old come Thanksgiving, which means he will only be able to drool over the turkey. But he will be with us and we will be thankful for him, all the people around the table and all those not.
Those not with us will include my Memphis sister and her family who haven’t missed a Thanksgiving with us in a decade, but who have already traveled back the 700 miles to Ohio six times this year to help with my health care needs and my husband’s death and funeral.
We all supported their need to stay home.
Most profoundly absent, of course, will be Steve, who sat at head of table for 30-plus years, including this past year. We would never have predicted his absence so soon; the progression of the disease since last year and his death on Sept. 24 was swift and shocking.
I would be given in not mentioning something else new to the table this year. It is literally but a small thing: little critters and balls I have been needle-felting out of colored wool since early November. It’s a funny little craft, one involving stabbing bits of wool with a barbed needle until the wool turns into shapes, a craft my friend Kelley taught me that has become a middle-of-the-night comfort and point of meditation.
I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I was going to do with these little minions until it occurred to me to make one for each Thanksgiving place setting.
I’m thinking now a bunny for the baby, a pumpkin for Benjie with his orange hair, a pink polka-dot ball for Emily in memory of her early obsession with pink, the mushroom for my daughter-in-law who makes art from things she find outside.
The one that looks like a globe covered in hearts will decidedly be placed at the head of the table.
This will be for Steve.
Until three years ago, he was a world-traveled author and scholar of international relations.
His remains are now one with the Earth and our hearts.
And our table is complete.
Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at www.debralynnhook.com