Part 13: Memories of a Thanksgiving Alone

Just ahead of Thanksgiving 2014, here are Margery Fridstein’s memories from Thanksgiving 2013, her first such holiday away from her family:

There is always a new challenge. This year, it was Thanksgiving. No one deserted me; I deserted them. I was, invited, encouraged, cajoled by my family, but I said “No.” I had traveled enough since summer. I had seen everyone and would be seeing many of them at Christmas.

I was staying home.

When I heard the weather reports on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I felt pretty smug. Lots of bad weather with planes being canceled and snowy, windy icy roads. Denver was to be beautiful and I would be safe and sound at home. After five years of living in my retirement community, this is indeed home.Margery enjoying Thanksgiving

A Lovely Thanksgiving Meal

I must admit, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I had some anxiety as our dining room began advertising their wonderful Thanksgiving buffet and urging us to make reservations. Who was I going to eat with? Should I go around telling people I am alone so someone will invite me? My rational self said just hang in, something will work out. My emotional self woke up at night concerned about arrangements for my Thanksgiving dinner.

And then, one day I was playing bridge and it leaked out. “I am alone for Thanksgiving; the first time in my life.” One of the women at the table responded, “So are we. All of our four families are going elsewhere. Why don’t you join up with us and we’ll eat here?” And another woman at the table chimed in, “We’re always alone on Thanksgiving. I’ve cooked a turkey for my husband and me for 55 years.” And so it ended up that those two couples, and later another couple, joined together with me to be a table of seven for a delicious Thanksgiving buffet in our dining room.

My friend made the reservation and proudly told me she had chosen an 11:30 a.m. seating, the choices being at 15-minute intervals from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Our dining room does a good job in managing large crowds of eaters. I didn’t have nerve to tell her I had a “thing” about eating lunch before noon, and here I was, set up to eat a heavy, rich, gourmet meal in the morning. I never told her about my craziness—and unless she reads this, she will never know. End of the story; we kept our 11:30 reservation, and the minute we entered the buffet line, time made no difference to me. I filled my plate with all the delicious food and enjoyed my dinner to the fullest.

But the story isn’t over.

Seduced by a Turkey

Earlier in the week, I had been in the supermarket to replenish my supply of bananas and orange juice when a turkey seduced me. A house-brand, 12-pound turkey for $7. I could cook it and eat it on Friday, cut it up and freeze it and have leftovers forever.Kitchen staffers with the onion Margery needed

So today, Friday, as I write this essay, I am cooking my turkey.

When the turkey seduced me, I carefully bought the rest of the supplies that go with a Thanksgiving meal—forgetting, of course, that in past years of this undertaking I always had someone else around to help me manage the obstacles of forgotten ingredients and the complications of lifting and getting the turkey ready to cook.

I began after my early breakfast and realized I had forgotten to buy an onion. Cooking when you seldom cook often becomes complicated because you do not store backup supplies. No fresh, frozen, even dried onion; no back up. I needed it for my Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing. I suppose I could skip it and just use celery, which I had bought, but I felt I needed the onion and I sure didn’t want to have to order my car at 7 a.m. and go to the store for one item. I called my neighbor, who is not only a good friend but also an early riser, but she had no onions. Our dining room opens at 7:30 a.m. for those few who like to buy breakfast. Maybe the kitchen would give me an onion. They did.

As I write this, my stuffed turkey is cooking and I am enjoying the aroma.

Thanksgiving Day is over. It’s a day to give thanks for many personal things as well as thanks for being an American. There is much going on in my country that doesn’t make me proud right now. And yet I know in my heart that my children and my friends’ children are going to figure out the right way eventually.

For me, every day is a new day. Thanksgiving was, and I am proud at how well I managed.

This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”

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