We wrested control of Thanksgiving from Mr. Blandings’s mother several years ago. We had a beautiful meal at a lovely table the last time she hosted, but the entire evening was peppered with comments like, “It’s so much trouble,” and, “Next time maybe we should just go out.” As she apologized about the pile of dishes I was gladly tackling (when you don’t cook, you should clean up) she said, “I noticed at the grocery store that you can just tell them the number of people and they will make the whole thing. You can pick it up until noon.” In a moment of pique, up to my elbows in soap suds I said, “Even better, we could just eat at the cafe tables by the deli and throw the whole mess in the trash when we’re finished.” Mr. Blandings, ever even, intervened, “Mom, you’ve done a lot of work for a lot of years, maybe next year we will have Thanksgiving at our house.”

There is a time worn tale about Mr. Blandings, who endured many dressed up and formal Thanksgivings at his grandmother’s, wondering, “Why can’t I have Thanksgiving on my own table?” And now he does. It is the best holiday for cooking. It allows him to plot and plan and test and taste. Our Thanksgiving dinners are not large, but they are homey.
Thanksgiving at my dad’s house is very casual and very big. My step-mother comes from a large family and most of her siblings and their spouses and children are there. In addition, my step-mother is one of those women who collects people, so there are usually five or six holiday strays who join in as well. The first Thanksgiving after we were married, Mr. Blandings and I went to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with my folks. Because of the number of people coming in from out of town, the last couple of times that I had been home I had been farmed out. It just seemed that if we were coming home, we should stay at home.
My dad picked us up at the airport and we caught up on who was coming and what was cooking. “We’re staying at the house, right?” “Uh, yeah.” But there was something. A hesitation. A slight narrowing of his eyes. As we pulled down the windy street and approached the house my pulse began to jump. There was an RV in the driveway. There was an RV in the driveway. “What’s that?” “Why don’t you just leave your bags in the car for now; I’ll bring them in in a bit.”
Seething. Furious. Nearly unable to speak, and frankly, a little embarrassed, I led Mr. Blandings into the house. “I simply cannot believe…” But I turned to him and his eyes were sparkling, “You were the one who said you had to stay at the house. Besides, I’ve never slept in an RV before.” No kidding.
So, our Thanksgivings, the Thanksgivings on Mr. Blandings’s table, fall somewhere in between. We are not in sweats, but neither are we in coat and tie. He cooks the meal and I bake the pie and set the table. We have a Thanksgiving tradition of giving each person at our table a Christmas ornament with dessert. It kicks off the next holiday. I’m in charge of these too, though this year I forgot. I’ve had a couple of big projects in the works and, well, I forgot. Until yesterday when I remembered.
I dashed out to find flowers and ornaments. The last couple of days have been fraught with an odd frustration which has led to an unusual holiday ennui. Dissatisfied with autumnal flowers, I stood at the florists with my arms crossed until I left apologetic and empty handed. The ornament search, which is usually a delight, was illogically frustrating. How could there not be a bear ornament to celebrate the youngest’s part in a school play? What could possibly take its place? All was lost.
And so it went until, home again, I began to bring linens from the closet and china from the cabinet. “It’s so much trouble,” I fretted. “No one notices but me anyway.” I set the entire table on a slightly rumpled tablecloth. Not badly rumpled. Slightly. Who would care?
And since yesterday I had been walking past it. Not only un-ironed, the cloth hung a little longer on the right side than the left. Before I went to bed I tucked it behind a chair.
Up early, I stood in the dining room in the dim light with my coffee cupped in both hands. Nonsense. Completely ridiculous to unload all the plates and silver and glasses. Folly. No one would even know. And then I began to stack the place settings on the window seat in the bay and pull the cloth and napkins to take them upstairs to iron them. It does matter. It matters to me, even if the members of the fraternity with whom I reside never notice. This is just where I want us to be, somewhere between a coat and tie and sweats. Somewhere between the country club and an RV.
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41 thoughts on “Thankful

  1. Great story! I had a family friend in South Carolina-a surrogate grandmother who when discovered sweat suits at age eighty-never wore anything else. I remember Sunday and Holiday dinners with her-she was an incredible cook-she would be decked out in a sweatsuit-but with Feragamo flats and pearls.


  2. Happy Thanksgivings to the Blandings from the Powells! Your festivities sound perfect! As we loaded the car this morning I was wondering when the day will come that we get to have Thanksgiving at our house… I look forward to it.
    Before you know it you will have daughters-in-law who will delight in your ironed linens… and you will love it! Chance is one of 3 boys and you wouldn't believe the delight having the girls around brings my mother-in-law.
    Regarding the RV- I can't help but think of Christmas Vacation where Cousin Eddie says "That!? Clark, that there is an rrrrrr.v."

  3. Mrs. B.,

    You should know – and know this to the bottom of your gracious, lovely soul – there's a guy – a guy sitting alone in his flat in San Francisco reading through his favourite blogs while the working in the kitchen – a guy who could not possibly love you more . . . and loves your stories – stories that always bring such a smile to his heart.

    Wishing you the warmest Thanksgiving,

  4. Erika – I'd be pretty darn luck to get a daughter in law as dear and talented as you. Fingers crossed. You can't imagine the "if the RV is rockin'" jokes that followed. Horrifying, much to Mr. B's delight.

  5. Thanks for telling such an inspiring story! If you hadn't bothered to iron, it might not have mattered, but, it's those small details of ironing and polishing and baking from scratch that bless our homes and families. Happy Advent!

  6. Mrs. Blandings,
    I enjoyed your story so much. I too am the "rose" in the fraternity when all the men are home. Sometimes you do just feel like no one cares or notices but I am so with you…I CARE. So I go and make the table pretty and do the extras for me. I look forward to the day when I have some daughters-in-law to do the girl things.
    Blessings to you…hope your day was special.


  7. You have the amazing talent of story telling, thank you for sharing your lovely tales with us-
    Hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving!

  8. I love this story–so many times the little efforts we make are for ourselves. This year has been one of practicing silence (no suggestions or hints) with my adult children. My daughter wanted to do Thanksgiving at her house this year—but she came over Wednesday to help (watch) me cook and ended up going through and claiming my extra Christmas decorations, finding old photos and just spending the day–what a wonderful gift to both of us. And I practiced silence–everything she asked for was already on my inner suggestion list–and I continued to practice silence and gratitude. Such a wonderful experience to know that all is planned and orchestrated and brought to light without personal interference.
    Thanks for all of your great posts of this year–blessings.

  9. As a dear friend of mine says, all I need are jeans and cocktail attire. It is funny to think that there is a fine line when celebrating. I do miss the formality of a certain generation but also appreciate when a host says, casual! Then I start to sweat.
    Another friend has a "black tie" pot luck.

  10. Exactly. Just the place to be. My Venezuelan mother-in-law does the thing up right. She's really taken to this most American of holidays. It's the perfect mix of informal and celebratory.

    Wonderful tradition of the ornament.

    Let the season begin!

  11. Thank you for your most wonderful story. It's what happens in real life. Most of the time when families are blended together, they are between the country club and the RV.
    My British husband of 27 years and I adore Thanksgiving as we can gather our daughters and friends together and joyfully honor them with food and fixings. The laughter around the table makes every effort more than worth it.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  12. I was the one who crawled down to retrieve the china in the bottom of my mother's china cabinet, who polished the silver and ironed the napkins. Even as a young girl, it mattered to me. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. All food. No guilt. I chose my wedding china—Autumn—for the Thanksgivings of my future. Now we are empty nesters and our parents are gone. How could that happen so quickly? This holiday my dining room is crammed with the bathroom project that went a little slower than planned and we ate in my little library. With its sparkling (and did I get the deal of the century) chandelier, surrounded by family antiques and books, my husband poured the wine and said, "You have always made this holiday special for me." Can't get better than that!

  13. P: this one ranks up there with the story of your mother. You need to sit down and put it all in a book, seriously.

    The RV. omg- too funny!

    Erika is right though – the daughter in laws will change it all – Ben is one of 3 boys and his mother got 3 interior designers. oy. you can only imagine! she loves it though having all the interest in her house for the first time.

    Hope it was all wonderful for you and the boys!

  14. It's been a while since a Musing, I was worried you'd stopped. This was really lovely.

    I can't wait until the hosting falls to Brett and I, and when I start to iron my tablecloth I'll raise a glass to you.

  15. They might not notice when you DO go to all the trouble…but I think they would definitely notice if you didn't.

    Hope it was fun. xo, Mrs. Grizwald

  16. Patricia a wonderful story. We are right where you are in using the nice liens, china and silver….why not? Although several in the family dress very casually!

  17. Dear Mrs. Blandings:

    Thanks for your lovely piece.

    By the way, I care too, and somehow deep down I know my fraternity does too, even if they don't know it yet!

  18. Now I'm feeling vaguely guilty that I didn't iron my tablecloth. I did con the husband into polishing the silver. That helps, right?

  19. Dear Mrs. Blandings,

    I love your writing…it come from the heart and your personal stories always strike an emotional chord with me. I read your blog fairly regularly and have never left a comment but felt the same way about this story as I did when you wrote about your mother. I predict a book deal is in your future.

  20. Dear Mrs Blandings,
    this is my first visit to your blog. I was touched by your holiday musing. Have you considered collecting these into a collection of short stories? Delightful, witty, and you even made me a little misty eyed. Happy Holidays!

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