Our Thanksgiving this year was very quiet. Each year our Thanksgivings have grown smaller. We started with twenty-four people in 2018, spent 2019 in North Carolina, fed sixteen people in 2020, and this year we spent the holiday entirely alone - although for us 'entirely alone' still means dinner for nine.
Our close friends left us this summer and we haven't taken the time and emotional energy to make many new friends for our last year in Tashkent. Making friends with new families is hard - there are a lot of things to match up in family friendships. Not only do the children need friends, but the parents have to also work well enough together that everyone can have a nice time together and nobody is counting down the minutes until the visit is over. It's much more challenging with seven children. There are families that have friends for our older children and families that have friends for our younger children, but there are very few families that have friends for all our children. Additionally, there aren't that many people who are that interested in/capable of enduring the unavoidable amount of noise and chaos that naturally comes with seven children. We are a lot to handle.
So when the discussion of Thanksgiving guests was held, the kids decided that they'd rather have it as a family. We knew families with small children who probably would have been happy to come over, but the older children said that they didn't want to spend all day cooking and then not have any friends of their own to share the holiday with. And admittedly, having nobody over also had some appeal. We wouldn't have to rush to get everything done by a specific time, the house didn't have to be that clean, and nobody minded if I served the mashed potatoes in their cooking pot.
One major downside of not having guests, however, was that I had to cook the entire dinner myself. Usually when we have guests, everyone contributes and we split up the meal. This year everyone was busy with school and Brandon was busy with work right until the day itself, so I was on my own. I've cooked all of Thanksgiving a few other times, but it was always with help from Brandon. This time, it was all me.
So Thanksgiving day turned into Thanksgiving week. On Monday I made pie crust, rolled it out, put it in pie pans, and froze it. On Tuesday I made sweet potato casserole, cubed and toasted bread for stuffing, and sauteéd onions and celery for stuffing. On Wednesday I made giblet gravy, mixed up pumpkin and pecan pie fillings, mixed up stuffing, brined the turkey, and as an extra bonus for Brandon, made eggnog. By the end of Wednesday afternoon, we had a refrigerator full of Thanksgiving food.
For the actual day, the cooking was light enough - only rolls, turkey, and mashed potatoes - that I spent part of the morning playing games with the children. We had the meal around two, which took about forty-five minutes to eat, about fifteen times less than the time it took to cook the entire meal. We only ate about a fifth of the food, and the seventeen-pound turkey was only missing its leg quarter by the time we were finished with it.
But that was okay with me because, as I mentioned earlier, Thanksgiving happened this entire week, and Thursday was only day one. We have now enjoyed Thanksgiving days two, three, and four, and tomorrow will probably be able to squeak out a Thanksgiving lunch before our leftovers are exhausted. After those are done, we will get to have turkey salad, turkey pot pie, and turkey soup. There are some definite leftover benefits to cooking all of Thanksgiving oneself.
I am hoping, however, that next year will have a little fewer leftovers and a little more friends. As nice as it was to spend the day quietly alone, I also have also enjoyed all of the Thanksgivings with friends we've made all of the places we've lived. Either with friends or only with family, Thanksgiving is always a wonderful holiday.