By “my first” I mean the first one without my family or somebody’s family around during Thanksgiving. It’s a coming of age experience nobody ever talks about. Your first period, your first car, first kiss, first lease agreement, first anniversary with a boyfriend, first post-secondary degree, first glass of bourbon because you actually like it, not because you’re trying to get drunk—all symbolic of growing up.
This Thanksgiving, my boyfriend and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner just for the two of us. No mom or dad or grandparents. No cousins, no aunts or uncles. No siblings, no friends, no roommates, not even a neighbor. Just me and the boyfriend. I’ll call him Russell.
I stuffed a chicken with lemon and rosemary (using herbs always makes me feel hoity toity, much like making cream sauce or letting the Bordeaux breathe; I’ve never actually made cream sauce come to think of it)—baked sweet potatoes, roasted green beans, mashed potatoes, and opened a canned gravy (because it tastes great and heats right up in the magic box called the microwave), chicken flavor. Flavored like chicken.
I even asked Russell to change out of his sweatpants and I slipped on a leopard print dress that I thought looked like a Snookie number meets Ann Taylor (it really is a great dress) to add a bit of saucy to the canned gravy.
And sitting there watching Russell carve the bird, I thought, this is my first grown-up Thanksgiving, the one where I didn’t rely on mom to remember the butter or my sister to baste the turkey while I wandered around the house, yukking it up while I sipped prosecco and answer the door to friends of the family with their little genius boy who doesn’t mind wearing the spare turkey hat I got for me and an accomplice and we pretend that the turkey hats are sniffing the pies, homemade, of course, to try and guess the flavors.
How do I describe what I was feeling as Russell sliced through the breast of our much smaller turkey known as chicken?
It was, well, like walking into a disco (and I mean disco because that’s what they call night clubs in foreign countries)—lights are twirling and the music is spinning and the liquor bottles are back lit to look like liquid jewels. And there’s no one there. It’s just me and Russell. We’re early. (Or it’s the wrong day, maybe.)
So early that no one else is coming. And we didn’t ask the cab driver to come pick us up later. It’s…awkward. The feeling is something akin to embarrassment.
So we order drinks…that we make ourselves because there’s no bartender. It’s a bit annoying at first, but then we look at one another after the first drink and realize we’ve got the run of the place. I’ll have a Hendrick’s martini with three green olives, please, not two, not four. Three. And for the man I love, a Glenfiddig 12 Years Old. Neat. Two fingers. I always wanted to say that: single malt, two fingers, neat.
We take our second drinks and walk around, exploring. The speakers are singing about flying to the moon as we peek into the kitchen. There’s a feast on the pass. And it’s still steaming! We’re both suddenly famished, confirm the divine aromas. Tastes even better. Ambrosial even. Oh my god, is that rosemary in the chicken? I didn’t know cranberry sauce was supposed to be this red! The canned stuff really kills the flush out of them, doesn’t it? Yes, yes it does darling. The mashed potatoes have a hint of dill and the gravy lake is filled with homemade jus, putting the tinned stuff to shame. Midway into the meal there’s a delightful “ding!” and Russell finds several pies, including his favorite, pecan, warmed to body temperature in the oven. Of course, there’s ice cream in the fridge! We laugh at our silly doubts.
For the après dîner nips, we don’t go gentle on the whipped cream for our Irish coffee and we giggle over each other’s white moustaches and snuggle in front of the fire place blazing in Russell’s bachelor pad.
And that sense of awkwardness and emptiness and the weight of my future self—with all the burden of being responsible for not just the meal, but for the feeling of home and family and tradition that had till this Thanksgiving never been my responsibility—felt like discovering a new and verdant territory in the often harried and hazardous terrain of adulthood. I grew up. We both did. And we did good.
More photo on Flickr.