My in-laws are arriving today for Thanksgiving, which will be terrific. The kids are especially looking forward to seeing Grandma and Grandpa, and it will be nice to have company for a couple of days and not be the ones doing the traveling. It will be awfully crowded in our small kitchen for our Turkey Day meal, but we’ll manage. Dinner for six is definitely doable, after all, compared to dinner for 77.
That number — 77 — was what my mom came up with when reminiscing the other day about a Thanksgiving Day dinner she helped coordinate more than 35 years or so ago. Recently retired, Mom has been spending a little time reflecting on memorable (and often funny) events that have transpired during her lifetime, and has done some writing about them. I think she would make a good blogger, but given her significant aversion to social media and overall lack of knowledge about computers, she should probably stay away. I can only imagine the tech questions my brother and I would be besieged with.
Anyhow, I have only vague memories of the “Dinner for 77,” as she titled the several paragraphs she wrote about that Thanksgiving. I have none about how it was coordinated.
“The first Thanksgiving after my husband and I separated was long and lonely, something I did not want to experience again,” my mom recalled in her short essay. “Sometime during the following year, I began thinking of a communal Thanksgiving. I put the idea out to a couple of friends and they responded with great enthusiasm. We made a list of people who might be interested: friends, neighbors, co-workers and their families.”
At the time, Mom was living in a structure that was the once the music building for Skidmore College. The place may have even been condemned at the time; I do know I was torn down shortly after we moved out. And, along with the building being in deteriorating condition, there were a multitude of odd things that we found upon establishing our residence there.
“The former tenant was an artist of the macabre who was moving to New York City,” my mom wrote. “There were a lot of headless dolls in the basement and phone booths with naked mannequins scattered in various rooms of the house. My sons found a pile of old 45 RPM’s in one of the second-floor toilets. It was an extremely funky place, but the rent was only $100.00 per month including heat.”
(I should add that I definitely remember the records, can’t for the life of me recall the mannequins — though one would think I would — and can envision my brother finding a doll. I also can’t believe Mom left out my favorite decorative feature — varying types of toast hanging on the walls of the dining room.)
That “extremely funky place” ended up being the site for the big, 77-person meal, made possible (in part) through a little renovation. “One weekend some friends got together to knock down a wall in one of the downstairs rooms,” Mom wrote. Everybody made a small donation toward the food, and a list was created to track what folks were bringing.
The dinner turned out to be a smashing success, and others took place in subsequent years — albeit in different locales, as the likely-condemned house probably didn’t stand all that much longer. “I can’t remember why we didn’t continue this tradition —perhaps because some of the people involved were moving in new directions,” my mom says at the end of her essay. “But we all have wonderful memories of those amazing dinners.”
I hope your Thanksgivings create wonderful memories, too.