My mother is a consummate entertainer. How many dinner parties did she hold around the big table in our special-occasions-only dining room? How many bridge nights did she host? How many nights did we kids eat at a card table set up in the den -- or on bar stools in the kitchen -- because both the dining room and the breakfast nook were occupied by my parents' friends?
I'm nowhere near that standard (as with most endeavors on which I can be compared with my mother). But I like the idea of having people over on occasion. Noel's parents are coming over for Thanksgiving, and while I have a lot of things to do between now and then -- like grading, teaching, and writing -- I'm already starting to plan the meal.
All I really have to plan is the turkey; it's my only responsibility. As the centerpiece of the meal, that means I'm the cornerstone of the entertainment edifice, or at least I flatter myself as such. Usually I'm at the American Academy of Religion meeting the week of Thanksgiving and only get home in time to thaw the turkey in the sink using the last-ditch change-the-water-every-30-minutes method. But because the conference was earlier this year, I got to move the turkey from the freezer to the fridge this morning and start dreaming about a platter garnished with apples, rosemary and sage.
I still crave the Thanksgivings of my childhood, as do we all. I want those side dishes -- my grandmother's stuffing, the pea and asparagus casserole, the apple and cranberry bake. But Noel and I put on a pretty good feed. And even though I'll never be half the hostess my mother is, I take pride in playing the part on rare occasions.