I’ll never forget the year when my Mom told me Santa was coming for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t have been in double-digits yet, and obviously, I still believed in Santa.
I grew up in a small community on an island in the Pacific Northwest, with two parents who had a knack at making friends and welcoming them into our home.
Santa just happened to live nearby, in his off-season, of course. He was an older plump gentleman who went to our church, everyone knew him as Shorty. He had a twinkle in his eye, the whitest beard I’ve ever seen, and a smile for everyone all the time. His sweet wife, Hazel, matched the part of Mrs. Claus perfectly, and the two played the part of Mr. and Mrs. Claus for as long as I can remember.
It wasn’t long before the word got out to my parents that Shorty and Hazel didn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving. And before I knew it, I was passing mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce over the turkey to Saint Nick himself.
As a vegetarian, Thanksgivings had less to do about the bird for me, and became more about who was coming—always the more the merrier. As a little girl, I loved to set the table for dinner—especially for special dinners. All of the fancy plates came out, as did the lace tablecloths and cloth napkins. Glasses we weren’t supposed to use the rest of the year were brought out too, and I took great glee in making the house look like a fine dining establishment. Of course with all these extra people in the house, we usually didn’t have enough room in our sit-in kitchen. Sometimes we made one big table in the living room, which was exciting because we never ate in there!
In preparing for the upcoming Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about the past few years, and how I’ve incorporated those same principals in my own celebrations. I love Thanksgiving—a holiday where I don’t have to find, buy, and wrap gifts—I can focus on what I do love, spending time with my family and friends, and making and eating great food!
A few years ago, I had asked a friend what she and her husband were doing for Thanksgiving. She told me they were doing an “appetizer” Thanksgiving. She said they were making a small feast all of their favorite foods and spending the day together with family, watching football, and eating their favorite foods.
While I don’t plan on doing an appetizer Thanksgiving, I do plan on adapting the menu to some less “traditional” items. Friends who don’t have holiday plans are always invited. The last few years I’ve had Costa Rican, Puerto Rican, and Russian guests join our family—making it an international celebration of sorts. I can’t wait to see who comes this year—or to figure out the menu! Being the sweet tooth that I am, I’m ditching the traditional pumpkin pie for the Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake instead!
Of course, thinking about these memories sent me looking for photos of Shorty, and I managed to find a few for everyone to see! In memory of Shorty and Hazel, and in memory of my Dad and Grandpa, I hope the coming Thanksgivings are a day to remember, less about the food stress and more about spending time with the people I care about.
P.S. Feel free to suggest items for the menu, anything goes! What is a non-traditional item you serve for the holidays?