by Emalyn Remington
I want to share a holiday anecdote with you. It was November 1999: my first Thanksgiving. I was around eight months old and my parents decided that our little family was going to host my mother’s parents and five younger siblings. My mother was in charge of the turkey, my dad was in charge of all of the sides, and I was in charge of not having any responsibilities because I was a baby. Easy enough, right? Anyway, so my mom puts the turkey in the oven and it hangs out there for a while and my dad gets to work at making these delicious sides, I’m probably crawling around our apartment being a nuisance. God knows the Grateful Dead or Van Morrison were probably playing. Everything was good. Our family arrived and when it came time to eat we were all seated around the table in awe over this magnificent feast that my two young parents had prepared. My aunt remembers looking at the spread and thinking everything looked terrific, the sides my dad made looked great and the turkey looked expertly made. But then, my dad cut into the turkey. Ice cold. The day before, my father had broiled bacon in the oven and without thinking my mom put in the turkey the next day assuming the oven was on the “bake” setting. So yeah, my mom broiled the turkey. Our only main course. Luckily, my mom was a good sport (and there were plenty of spirits) and even though our main course was inedible, everyone laughed (I assume I just kinda stared vacantly into the void but I’m laughing now thinking about it). That experience would mark the first of many crazy family holidays to come.
Fast forward twenty-one years, this Thanksgiving marked the beginning of my first holiday season without my dad. To help myself get out of a really sad place, I decided that I was going to bake something to contribute to our small, family Thanksgiving. I’m not a chef, but I’m a pretty mediocre baker so I knew that I was going to make a dessert. I chose to make mini chocolate (an homage to my dad’s personal favorite), banana cream, and pumpkin pies. I was just hoping that I wouldn’t burn them- that would be a huge feat for me as a baker. I thought about Thanksgiving at Rob’s when we were growing up. One year we watched Ice Age and built gingerbread houses, one year I sprained my ankle attempting “ballet” in his kitchen, another we played Michael Jackson Just Dance for hours. Then I thought about the holidays without him- where he was just a voice on the phone or a glitching Facetime video. Even though we were so distant physically, there wasn’t a holiday where he didn’t at least call and shoot the shit for ten minutes. That was just how Rob was. In recent years, Thanksgiving has taken on a new meaning to my mom’s family as we lost my mom’s father in 2013, and his birthday is within days of Thanksgiving. Having my family as a support system has been a blessing in many ways because my aunts and uncles understand what my brothers and I are going through and together we can reminisce and laugh and talk about good memories of both my papa and my dad. Last Wednesday, when the pies came out of the oven I was pleased to find out that they weren’t burned, in fact they looked kind of good. Who knows, maybe by next year I’ll be making my own side dish–or my own ‘expertly cooked’ turkey.