Wednesday, May 22, 2024 May 22, 2024
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Home & Garden

Make Thanksgiving an Unstuffy Affair

How to make this joyful holiday a true party.
illustration by by Larry Oliver

A few years back, my husband and I decided to throw a party right around Thanksgiving. We had just redone our house. Everything was shiny and new, with the walls slickly glazed in Tuscan gold. (Yes, I did it, too!) Of course, I wanted to show the place off. As it happened, many of my old college friends were in town for the holiday, and it was also the beginning of many of our children’s college careers. So it was the perfect time for us to host an adult celebration that included our kids. And so began a tradition: the annual “Thankful for Friends” Thanksgiving Party.

There is something so joyful about a freshman’s first Thanksgiving home from college. They have survived those first few scary months away from home, and they’re eager to show off their newfound worldliness and sophistication, or maybe just their “late-to-the-party” badness. It was the first time many of us were seeing those kids as young adults—the last time we saw some of them, we were changing their diapers. Our kids invited friends, and we invited new and old friends and their kids. It was a great party: loud, raucous, but mostly well-behaved.

Throughout the following years, the TFF party became something people looked forward to. More guests came. More great food, beer, and wine were consumed. We all—adults and kids alike—adopted a college frat attitude. It was hard to tell who the “real” adults were because the age difference had ceased to matter. One year, I found myself dancing with my college roommate’s youngest son to classic rock music. Another year, my cousin blew out a speaker playing Pink Floyd at rock-concert volume. One year, a friend brought over vintage couture dresses that her mother had modeled at Neiman Marcus back in the day. Of course, I wore every single outfit—changing every hour or so and emerging from my room as a new person. Another year, our youngest daughter and her friends persuaded my husband to show off his newest athletic passion. He had just taken up ice hockey and played the goalie position. I’m not sure if you’ve seen hockey goalie equipment up close, but it’s big. Really big. My slender husband came out of the garage looking the approximate size of a Volkswagen.

Like any responsible adult, I always insist that people who drink spend the night at our house. And they did. We had a big dormitory-style home for our five kids—lots of beds and sofas. It was not unusual for me to get up the morning after the party and see every available horizontal surface covered with a snoozing body. Our youngest daughter once stayed up late in order to keep up with her older brother and sisters. When she finally went to her bed, it was taken. She had to sleep with us. Beds are hard to come by. A few years ago at my daughter Lauren’s wedding, a charming young man came up to me and said, “Don’t you remember me? I found your room and tried to climb in your bed one Thanksgiving only to realize you and your husband were in it.”

We moved to a new home several years back. Our first year at our modern house, we threw the Thanksgiving fete. The tables were set with holiday goodies, and all the right decorations were in place. All the usual suspects were there, and a lot of new friends, too. It was a great party. I know this for three reasons. First: breasts were bared. Second: property was destroyed. (Sad because I really loved the Thai vase fountain in the courtyard that I found smashed the next morning.) Third: there was a hookup in the front bedroom. Unfortunately, that was also where everyone left their purses and coats. When people began to collect their personal items to leave, there was a very embarrassed couple who was forced to leave through the side door. Being the model of decorum, I didn’t say anything about it the next year.

Unfortunately, we haven’t had the Thanksgiving party for a couple of years. Those bad kids who stayed up all night are still up all night but are now feeding newborn babes and soothing nightmares. As for us, the aging rockers who never wanted to get old? We’re traveling around the country to visit our children and grandchildren during the holidays. And we’re thrilled to do it. Sometimes growing up happens to the best of us.