Buca di Beppo is a rather delicious restaurant. Just probably not the first place one might think of for a Thanksgiving meal. That was only one layer of what made 2010 the strangest Thanksgiving I’ve experienced. When it was all said and done and the last of the hearty Thanksgiving fettucini alfredo had been eaten though, it was perhaps the most meaningful turkey day of my life.
Coming into the day, I knew it was going to be different. My mom was on day 25 of what was supposed to be just a weeklong hospital stay, so the family was just planning on fending for itself and spending as much time at the hospital as we could. That morning, there was a knock at my door. A good friend of mine from Iceland was on the other side with his parents. He was getting ready to go back home and stopped by for a final goodbye. It was so good to get to know him and great to meet his parents. They represent three people who have a completely different life than I do, but on this day we shared our gratitude for each other and for the things in life that we had in common. They even mentioned that they are planning on starting the Thanksgiving tradition in their homeland next year, but will probably use the more readily available lamb rather than turkey. Step one complete of the best Thanksgiving ever.
Thankfully (that’s an important word on Thanksgiving, ya know?) my mom was well enough to be released from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day. That was step two of what made it a great day. I had realized how much I missed having her in my daily life, and her health was near the top of my “I’m thankful for…” list. Since it was so great to have her home, nobody really felt like investigating the restaurant scene. No turkey and mashed potatoes, none of my beloved green bean casserole with those amazing onion straws on top, no pumpkin pie. But that didn’t matter. We spent time together and had joy in her improving health. People say it every year, but I truly did realize that it’s not the poultry that makes Thanksgiving such a great day. It’s the opportunity to recognize the good things in life and thank those people who made those good things possible.
Hunger did eventually start to set in though. The only nearby place that was open was Buca di Beppo, so even though we were sans mom, I was able to join my siblings and their spouses for a fun-filled Thanksgiving meal. My sister-in-law quipped, “Of course the pilgrims ate Italian on that first Thanksgiving, right?” Ironically, Buca di Beppo is a “family style” restaurant, so we were all able to share each dish as we would a typical Thanksgiving feast. Afterwards, we joined some distant relatives for dessert. It made me realize that spending time with those we love really is the reason for the season.
As it turned out, a neighbor dropped off a ton of leftovers from her family’s meal. Turkey and mashed potatoes, my beloved green bean casserole with those amazing onion straws on top and even pumpkin pie were consumed after all. Not only that, but a real lesson in finding common ground with people, in recognizing the good things in life and remembering the importance of spending time with loved ones was learned in a very powerful way.
I am looking forward to December, perhaps more than ever before. Things will probably be a little more “typical” this time around than they were on Thanksgiving, and that will be great. Beyond the presents though, it will be another opportunity for each of us to think about the things that we hold most important, whether Santa shows up or not.