Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
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Mary Bilyeu

Thankful to be in Toledo

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Many families will sit around a bountiful feast on Thursday and offer thanks for their blessings.

A number of these families still get together despite problems, insisting that blood is thicker than water, even thicker than gravy. No one is happy, but it’s part of the tradition.

But my family stopped gathering for holidays long ago. Others may have stressful meals filled with new fodder for grudges to carry, but my extended family doesn’t get together at all.

I will still do a lot of cooking for the day because I like to cook, and I particularly like to cook for my son, who will share the meal with me. Jeremy is more of a traditionalist, while I like to try new recipes; we compromise by serving the standard turkey with stuffing, and also mashed potatoes infused with lots of garlic. And I’ll serve the cornbread that’s featured in today’s main article, since it’s Jeremy’s favorite version. I’m not sure, as I type this, what other side dishes and desserts we’ll enjoy.

In this “last hurrah before the holiday” column I want to let you know, if your family is fractured like mine, that you’re not alone. All the media blitz about food, family, friends, and fellowship doesn’t ring true in a lot of households ... many more than admit it, I think.

One of my co-workers mentioned recently that this would be the first holiday without extended family members seated at the table. It was clearly very painful to contemplate this new and very harsh reality after an unexpected falling-out. It represents a severing, of ties and of traditions.

This has been going on in my family for decades, though. So I’ve taken control of the situation and simply do what I want to do when I want to do it, rather than having to dress up or be somewhere at an appointed time, rather than bringing an assigned salad when I’d have preferred to make dessert, rather than skipping the stuffing because someone put oysters in it.

But, truth be told, there’s still a wound. And holidays pick at the scab.

One of the best ways to cope with this is to go back to the first sentence in this column and to offer thanks, to focus upon blessings.

I find myself, this Thanksgiving, in an entirely new city, with a new job and with an extraordinary abundance of new friends. I hadn’t even applied for the position, yet, at this time last year; who could have envisioned how very much has been given to me in Toledo? The welcome and the generosity and the kindness have been truly overwhelming and wonderful.

Jeremy and I are both healthy, as is my boyfriend, Craig. Last November, I was dealing with two tears in my shoulder and a looming surgery to fix them; I needed help to prepare the holiday meal, which I can now do on my own because everything healed beautifully.

I have sufficient food to not only make my Thanksgiving dinner, but to have plenty of leftovers to make the requisite turkey sandwich with cold stuffing for breakfast the next morning. Every year, Jeremy tries to persuade me to cook the turkey on Wednesday so his holiday meal can be the beloved leftovers. I can’t quite envision that, but maybe some day I’ll surprise him.

I have a home, a car (it’s gasping a bit lately, but holding on), heat, lights, food for daily meals, money to pay my bills, and so very much more if I were to take the time to list every good thing in my life.

So if your Thanksgiving celebration is in any way compromised, be sure to take time to count your blessings. It changes your perspective.

And when you head into the kitchen after your feast and look around at all the detritus, make a point to remember this old adage, too:

Be thankful for dirty dishes. It means you had food.

Contact Mary Bilyeu at mbilyeu@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.

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