By Lori Borgman
RISMEDIA, Nov. 26, 2008-(MCT)-People can be sticklers about what time they have Thanksgiving dinner. There are the high-noon purists and the mid- to late-afternoon debonair.
I spring from high-noon stock. As a child, I heard of people who had Thanksgiving dinner later in the day, around 2 or 3, and frankly, I wondered if they were all right.
Whatever did those families do until mid-afternoon? Play cards and let their babies run wild? It was rumored that those who didn’t eat at the naturally ordained hour of noon were putting on airs and acting cosmopolitan.
Sometimes I fancied myself as cosmopolitan. Holding my stiff Chinette paper plate, I would go to the end of the line behind all the aunts and uncles and hundreds of cousins, hoping that by being the last in line, I would have my turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing at a decadent 12:20 or maybe even a scandalous 12:35.
That was as far as my flirtations ever went. There was no transgressing into the 1 o’clock hour. An aunt or uncle who found a kid staring at a plate of food that long would have sounded the alarm for a medical emergency.
Not all of our Thanksgivings were spent with the tangled mass of cousins. Some of them were spent with three great-aunts who had helped raise my father when he was a little boy.
One was widowed early in life, the other two never married and all three lived together in a tidy white house. They embodied the essence of prim and proper and held fast to the high noon tradition.
The aunts bustled about the kitchen roasting the turkey, singing in three-part harmony, boiling potatoes and steaming the windows. They darted in and out of the dining room, setting china, silverware and beautiful crystal goblets they had bought for their own mother years ago.
At precisely noon, they would take off their aprons; we would sit down to pray and commence to feast.
As the years passed, their singing began to warble and the mashed potatoes occasionally had a lump. Thanksgiving dinner slid slightly off schedule-by 15 minutes one year, half an hour the next. The aunts were flustered that the meal was off schedule, but Mom and Dad assured them everything was fine.
More time passed and the aunts’ steps began to slow. There was a small wrinkle in the linen tablecloth and, in a mortifying faux pas, they forgot to set the butter knife.
Thanksgiving dinners were now off schedule by a full hour.
Eventually, the aunts began having difficulty sleeping at night. They acquired the usual aches and pains that accompany age, but they still relished having the family for Thanksgiving dinner.
At the last Thanksgiving we shared in their home, sunlight streamed in through the tall narrow windows in the dining room, casting a halo of light on the marvelous feast before us. The aunts had not lost their touch in the kitchen, although the meal was now one-and-a-half hours off schedule.
The aunts looked at the clock on the wall and sighed in unison. Mom and Dad laughed, dismissed the hour and said the only thing that mattered was that we were all together enjoying Thanksgiving.
It was 10:30 a.m. We were a new kind of cosmopolitan.
© 2008 Lori Borgman.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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