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Thanksgiving 2016

Warning: Boring narrative ahead!

It’s Thanksgiving. It feels like there are at least three kinds of essays I could write [1]. I could write about memories of Thanksgivings of Years’ past. I could write about the oh-so-many thinks that I’m thankful for [2]. Or I could just write about this year’s Thanksgiving, and see where that leads.

This year at Thanksgiving, my two older children decided that they should invite their team-mates who were still in town to Thanksgiving dinner. (Yes, they cleared this with us first.) Arranging the dinner was, shall we say, interesting. They set up a schedule. (No, really.) They set up a Google doc to keep track of who was coming and what their food preferences and restrictions were. At some point, Michelle sent us all a message saying something like Invite folks who don’t have elsewhere to go, so I invited students in my CSC 322 class and at CS table, as well as some of the students who seem to make it a point to poke their heads into my office to say hi. We ended up with an interesting mix of swimmers, divers, soccer players, cs majors, a basketball player, and friends of all of the above.

Of course, middle son [3] decided that (a) we should start the day by making bagels, (b) he should invite people to learn to make bagels, (c) it’s much more fun if you make six batches of bagels, and (d) he wanted to experiment. And so we made: regular bagels, poppy-seed bagels, cinnamon bagels, berry bagels (very popular), Guinness bagels [4], and, because a friend requested them, tequila bagels [5]. I think he started the day at 7am and most of the bagels were done by about noon. He had a slew of people come in to help, and I think people had a surprising amount of fun.

Michelle and I spent most of the rest of the day cooking and cleaning [6]. At the kids’ request, we made three different meats (brisket, turkey, and ham). We had one vegetarian student (or at least one who prefers vegetarian) and one vegan student, so we make a tofurkey [7], chickpea stew, vegan stuffing, and a host of vegetables and starches to accompany the meal: brussels sprouts, cucumbers, baked sweet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows [8], mashed potatoes [9]. For those more omnivorous, we also had green-bean casserole, regular stuffing, turkey gravy, mushrooms boiled in butter, rolls (multi-grain and plain), and probably some things that I’ve forgotten about. It came together pretty smoothly, although I’m not sure that our kitchen has been that messy in a long long time.

While Michelle and I were busy in the kitchen, the kids were keeping their friends entertained with a variety of games. (Both our kids and their friends were also regularly checking in to see if we needed help; however, Michelle and I are pretty good at working together on large meals.)

I think the dinner went nicely. People seemed to have a good time. The Rebelskys weren’t completely in our normal can anyone not part of the family follow the thread of conversation? form, which I think was good. I appreciate that middle son suggested that we all say something we were thankful for [10].

After dinner, the kids played some more games and Michelle and I started cleaning up from dinner. We also hosted some latecomers. I appreciate that all three sons helped with cleanup, and that eldest stayed up late to make sure that the front room and dining room were particularly clean.

Other than exhausting me [11], this day gave me many things to be thankful for. As always, I’m thankful for my wonderful wife and my three talented and thoughtful sons. Having them think about how to support their friends is nice, and reminds me of the tradition of both my parents and in-laws to invite their friends (or their kids’ friends) to Thanksgiving. While middle son is somewhat over the top sometimes, I appreciate his enthusiasm for doing creative baking. I didn’t get to hear youngest son play piano today, but I’m always thankful for his musical inclinations. And I’m thankful for how helpful eldest son is [12]. I’m thankful that our status in life is such that we can provide a place for students to have dinner. And, as I think I’ve said too much recently, I’m thankful for the many awesome students I meet (and, on occasion, teach) at Grinnell. (I’m also thankful that it’s Erik and Carolyn’s 15th anniversary and that Erik asked that we celebrate by sharing a nice meal with friends and family.)

while today was wonderful, it was also a little bit melancholy. This Thanksgiving may be the last one in a while in which eldest son is home [14]. It will be strange and different having him far away. And it’s only a few more years until middle and youngest head elsewhere. I hope we’ll still find ways to spend many more Thanksgivings together.

At least next year I can be pretty sure that I’ll have at least two sons here, and probably another slew of students, at least if middle son gets his way.

[1] Or is that should write?

[2] That’s serious. There is a whole lot for me to be thankful for.

[3] Should that be Middle Son rather than middle son?

[4] Yes, that’s right. He used Guinness in place of about half of the water. These bagels were pretty good.

[5] I thought this was a bad idea. Alcohol kills yeast. So using a higher-proof alcohol seems like a particularly bad idea. But he did get it to rise, even though the dough was very dense. But they turned out okay, if not all that unique: Once we’d boiled and baked them, it was hard to tell the tequila bagels from the other bagels.

[6] Well, after Jonathan was done with the kitchen, cleaning and cleaning and cooking and cleaning seems like a more accurate description; there was a lot of flour on the floor and elsewhere.

[7] I found one at the grocery store. Boy, it’s dense. It’s also not very tasty. In some sense, tofurkey is to turkey as turkey bacon is to real bacon.

[8] We weren’t sure if marshmallows count as vegan, or even vegetarian, so those got consigned to the meat-eaters table.

[9] Mashed with butter, so not vegan. I never remember whether or not vegetarians have butter.

[10] I appreciate less that he also suggested that we share some gossip, although it was interesting to hear some of the gossip.

[11] The day started at a little after 7 a.m.. I’m finishing this essay at a little before 11 p.m.

[12] I’m also thankful for all three sons’ creativity, for all three sons’ helpfulness, and for all three sons’ musical talents, among other things.

[14] Certainly, once I went away to college, Thanksgivings with mom in Newton became much much rarer. But we did a reasonable number in Chicago, and even some in Grinnell.

Version 1.0.2 of 2016-12-06.