Repost from my Facebook page. Written Thanksgiving 2019.
I’ve never liked Thanksgiving. I think it’s stupid. It’s food based and the drama that comes with it isn’t worth roast turkey and stuffing. But I’m grateful we did our Sisters’ Thanksgiving last year.
It was the first time we’d all four been together since my wedding 11 years earlier. It was the last time I saw my sister Sara before she was killed. Her arm was in a sling. She told us it was from pushing her cart at work. She was a nurse on a prison’s death row. It seemed plausible. Looking back now, that’s probably not what happened.
I remember that she fell asleep on my sister’s couch. We thought that was funny and made fun of her a little bit. I regret that. She probably just felt safe enough there to sleep. She may have been grateful to be with us and away from him. But we didn’t know that. We didn’t know he was there. We didn’t know he was hurting her.
Sister #2 (daughter #3), J, hosted. She had a full spread for us and had made a table and benches for the occasion. It was really impressive. My husband and sons were there. We were at the end of a Disney/Universal Studios vacation. One of my nephews was there and he and my sons had a good time visiting. Sara’s son wasn’t there. He was with his dad. He wasn’t with his dad when she was killed. He saw everything. He was hurt too.
My youngest sister, A, was there with her dog. She didn’t bring her boyfriend. It was a new relationship and all four of us at once is a lot. Sara never got to meet him.
Sara was dressed in old clothes. Her hair probably needed a good wash and trim. But that really wasn’t abnormal. Her skin looked rough but better than when I’d seen her in June for our dad’s memorial. Stress can take a toll. She’d been under more stress than just this guy was causing. Back then I’d given her the bunch of moisturizer samples I’d been hoarding. Her skin just looked so dry and thirsty. Much older than her 38 years.
Sara left earlier than the rest of us. She had to work the next morning. She worked 12 hour shifts that started at 4 or 5am. She wanted to get some sleep before getting up again. I wonder if she did. I wonder if it was restful.
I didn’t bring anything to dinner because we were on vacation and staying at a hotel near the airport. It had a weird indoor/outdoor pool. The indoor part was in the lobby. Very strange. When I flew down less than a year later to be with family and help out after she was killed, I stayed in that same hotel. I had a nice moment with the concierge. She asked why I was visiting and I was honest. My sister died. Her’s had died too. From cancer a few months previously. We cried together and she came out from behind the desk and we hugged for longer than strangers would.
Last Thanksgiving was a nice visit. I didn’t realize it would be the last visit with her. I didn’t realize all the pain that was to come. My youngest sister was 27 when Sara was killed. We’d been four for 27 years. It’s way too soon to be only three.
I’ve only hosted Thanksgiving once. Back in college my roommate and I hosted. Sara came. Another friend came as well. I’d been watching a lot of Food Network and made several of Alton Brown’s recipes. I brined the turkey overnight and scalded the milk for the mashed potatoes. It was good. It was hard to coordinate all the dishes, though. Making sure everything was warm but not overcooked. Like I said, it’s a lot of work and a lot of drama and no one appreciates it. You don’t even get presents. It’s just food.
But I guess it’s more than just food. It is a time to get together. No matter the real story of the “first Thanksgiving” or any of the “colonialism is bad” narrative, it’s a time to be with family. It’s an appointment on a calendar. It can be celebrated without mention of people in tall black hats and colorful feather headbands sharing fish and wild boar on a long table in the woods of Massachusetts. Thanksgiving is the last time I saw my sister. Maybe that makes me like it a bit more.