Thanks a Lot

Thanksgiving is upon us once more, and I for one love it. A holiday about food? What’s not to love? But family holidays are never that simple, are they? I have three siblings, all of whom sat at the kids table in the living room at my grandmother’s house. We all eavesdropped on the adults talking and laughing at the kitchen table. We paid closer attention when the adults would suddenly switch to French and wished we knew why they would start laughing harder. I think that’s why my older sisters took French in high school so we could figure out what they were talking about. Of course the joke was on us. They were studying France French and my family is French Canadian, so that was just about as helpful as me taking Spanish. We all had the same holiday experience, but as we grew up, we had very different reactions. My sister Sharon and I love, love, love Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for many years sought to replicate the larger number of guests my grandmother had at her table, usually around 15 adults and kids. My other sister Julie and brother Mark could live their lives happily never celebrating another holiday ever again. As a matter of fact Julie made it official when she became a Jehovah Witness at age 20—they don’t celebrate anything, except wedding anniversaries. There’s a reason for that, but since it wasn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas, I can’t remember it. But even before she converted, the holidays for her were about as fun and getting poked in the eye with a broken wishbone. My brother shares her eye pain.

For years Sharon and I puzzled and puzzled about this until our puzzlers were sore—how could we be so sharply divided when we’d all had the same experience, which didn’t include any deal breakers like drunken yelling, burned food or fisticuffs? The rest of our family days weren’t always so fabulous, but Thanksgiving and Christmas were consistently good. Finally Sharon and I gave up and just concentrated on beefing up our Thanksgiving numbers to make up for the loss of Julie and Mark. And then at some later point, once we determined that my son was in our camp (it seemed like it might be genetic, so we worried), we just gave in to whatever happened, making gobs of food whether we had seven people or 12. We have abided.

In addition to a sister, son, and parents who love Thanksgiving, a brother-in-law and sister-in-law who tolerate our excessive foodie ways, and a brother and sister who do what’s right for them, here is a very incomplete list of other random things I’m very thankful for in this moment:

  • The times I woke up at the right time and realized I’d forgotten to set my alarm.
  • Having a number of good bosses in my career, including one who originated one of my favorite phrases, “I can be flexible when I’m forced to be!”
  • Realizing as teenagers there was a reason the stop sign we wanted to steal was so big—it was a dangerous intersection. Undeterred we stuck to signs of street names.
  • Still being friends with said fellow thieves in the previous bullet.
  • Having a smart, nerdy gamer son because I really don’t like watching sports outside, in rinks, or really anywhere.
  • My crochet teacher who taught me how to cover up mistakes and called it “hiding the dead bodies.”
  • All the people who read, follow, and comment on this blog–without you I’m just writing stuff on my computer.
  • And a thousand other things big and small, which are all in my head, but hard to find because I don’t have Google for my brain.

Here’s wishing you all the Thanksgiving you can live with. And if you need a place to go, we’re still four short of 15.

Photo credit: 


  1. The Star-Ledger Archive
    COPYRIGHT © The Star-Ledger 2001
    Date: 2001/11/21 Wednesday Page: 001 Section: NEWS Edition: FINAL Size: 983 words
    Baby Boomers set the table for more inclusive kids’ feast
    Diane Loughlin has one overriding memory of Thanksgiving dinner when she was a child: The indignity of sitting at the kids’ table.
    It wasn’t just that the kids crowded around a rickety card table in the kitchen while grown-ups enjoyed the dining room table. The grown-ups also ate off good china, while the kids had everyday plates. Grown-ups got crystal; kids, paper cups.
    “I remember when my oldest cousin was old enough to sit at the grown-up table, we were all jealous,” said Loughlin of Ridgewood, who endured the kids’ table until high school. “It was the worst table to be at.”
    Born partly of necessity and partly as a way to give parents some time for themselves, the idea of seating the kids at their own table became a holiday tradition – and a rite of passage – for millions of families.
    But what was once as common on Thanksgiving as cranberry sauce and turkey drumsticks is changing these days, as some families skip the children’s table and others go out of their way to make it more kid- friendly.
    “My mother grew up in a generation where everybody had a kids’ table. Now, it’s completely different. No one’s ever felt they needed to be segregated,” said Claire Fox of Readington, who will spend the holiday at her sister’s, where eight children and 20 adults will sit at one “enormous” table.
    Loughlin said that when she and her siblings learned that their mother, Carolyn Bodden, was putting their children at a kids’ table last Thanksgiving, they were less than thrilled. Then they got to her house in Ramsey.
    The kids’ table was set with a tablecloth meant for coloring, and a package of crayons for each child. There were presents and chocolate turkeys at each place setting; balloons hung from the ceiling; confetti sprinkled on the table; and chicken nuggets and mini-bagels served with the turkey.
    “We were all hysterically laughing. We’re like, ‘That’s the kids’ table?'” Loughlin recalled. “This is the same mother that, 20 years ago, banished us to a card table?”
    About 45 million turkeys will be on dinner tables in American homes tomorrow, according to the National Turkey Federation. Many will be shared – or at least picked at – by children.
    The final decision on the kids’ table – which some now call a “satellite table” – may hinge on the size of the dining room and the number of kids and adults gathering for dinner. But other issues also may play in.
    Child psychologist Maurice Elias, a Rutgers University professor and author of the book “Emotionally Intelligent Parenting,” said he believes the kids’ table is much less common than 25 years ago. He estimated that 85 percent of families with young children had kids’ tables then, and about half now.
    In the past, he said the idea was that adults wanted a chance for adult conversation. Now, he said some parents want to be together with their kids – and some just think their kids are so likely to pester them, they may as well seat them nearby.
    “Otherwise, the parents will spend most of their time at the kid table,” he said.
    Susan Newman, a social psychologist and the author of 11 parenting books, said that while the kids’ table still works for many families, today’s parents weigh the pros and cons more.
    “The cliché, ‘Children are to be seen and not heard,’ was the overriding dogma of earlier generations. Now, children are brought front and center,” said Newman, a Rutgers professor. “I definitely think this generation is giving this particular issue more thought.”
    Christina Crawford of Princeton said she was relegated to the kids’ table until she was about 12 years old, something she remembers as “not quite punishment, but almost.” When her own kids were small, they ate with the adults.
    “Especially Thanksgiving, to me, is a very inclusive family day,” said Crawford. “I just feel you should all be together.”
    Several experts said that this year especially, with people feeling anxious after the Sept. 11 attacks, families may be more inclined to squeeze around one table.
    But some say kids have more fun on their own.
    “It works for us,” said Los Angeles party expert Linda Morris, who has written about entertaining for Web sites and television, and said her kids like to hang out with their cousins without parents hovering.
    Gretta Irwin, the executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation and a member of the National Turkey Federation, said she hasn’t seen kids’ tables disappear: “I don’t hear that here in the Midwest.”
    But in the past few years, the turkey industry has promoted more Thanksgiving activities for kids. Butterball’s Web site, for instance, includes a game called Tic-Tac-Turkey, and coloring pages kids can print out for the big day.
    Laurie Johnson of Kinnelon sat with the adults as a child. Now, her family uses a kids’ table, and goes out of the way to make it fancy.
    The mother of 4-year-old triplets and an 8-year-old, Johnson said they set the table with flowers, glasses and, last year, even candles, which she watched closely until one of the kids blew them out.
    “They don’t sit long enough to be at the big table,” she said.
    As the catering manager at Country Picnic caterers in Bedminster, where 26 turkeys will be roasted for customers’ dinners tomorrow, Ron Luccaro has some insight into Thanksgiving dinner. He said that while many people put kids at the big table – “yuppies, for lack of a better term for them” – at his home, kids have their own.
    Luccaro recalled throwing stuffing around when he sat at the kids’ table with his three siblings and a gang of cousins. He sets the kids’ table with a plastic tablecloth, and said he doesn’t mind if the crowd at his house – six to eight kids, age range 6 to 16 – gets rowdy.
    “I clean it up,” he said. “We encourage it.”

  2. Love it, Jeanette! Thanks for posting! Being the only kid in our family, Lucas has always eaten with us, but now that he’s a teen, he may want his own table soon 🙂 Heck, maybe I want my own table.

  3. I remember sitting at a kids’ table when I was little, and it was a rite of passage when we got old enough to join the adults!

  4. Such a funny thing, isn’t it? For us it was a space issue, so there was no “graduating,” but as we got older the kids table got more fun! Of course, with Sharon being the lead instigator how could it not?

  5. Sometimes gratitude means saying “Thanks a Lot.” Sometimes it means saying “But No Thanks.”

    I’m grateful for you, Sandy, for peace and abundance, and for the gift of song.

    1. And I’m honored and grateful for having Wanda in my life! Another delightful performance, my dear, and I still love you, even though you look better than I do in a sparkly gown!

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