Thanksgiving is a major production; at least it has been for the last few years. We celebrate holidays, birthdays, and other such occasions with our “gang.” This is a collection of about six individuals whose family ties extend throughout several states. My wife and I are the only couple among our gang. We decided to call ourselves a gang after watching a TV interview between Bill Moyers and Kurt Vonnegut, the author, now deceased. Kurt said everybody should have a gang. By this he meant a group of friends who play the role of support, accountability, extended family, and all-around caring people. So we are now a gang. But I digress.
Thanksgiving, as I mentioned, has turned into a major production in recent years. Partly this is due to the spaces we live in. Two members of our gang occupy 8-900 sq. ft. apartments. A third has a town house that is only slightly larger. None of us has space to accommodate 17 people at a sit down Thanksgiving meal. So we have become very creative. We usually begin with our gang of six talking about who will host the dinner this year and who is coming. By the time we finish the discussion, we find that somehow between 12 and 18 people have already been invited and/or have expressed a desire to join us for dinner.
Linda and I always count on my mother, Opal, and my son, Robb. Then our friends the Butchers from LA have an open invitation and sometimes show up. Frank now has his son and daughter-in-law, Kyle and Jackie, who have somehow doubled in the last few years, with Ronin and Roxanne, three and 15 months, respectively. Tomi invited her sister and brother-in-law from Santa Fe and they in turn asked if their son Keith could join us. Two days before the big day one year our friend Paul, from Colorado, showed up, un-announced, to stay with Frank. And this year my cousin Jan from Iowa, now a "California Snow Bird,” is with us.
Every year we come up with plans A and B. Plan A is to have dinner by our community pool. Of course it is always too cool by Thanksgiving Day. So plan B is executed: hors d’oeuvres at someone’s place at 1:30 p.m., followed by dinner at another’s at 3, then dessert at a third house, whenever. We arrange to borrow tables from my Mom’s church and chairs from the Redlands Art Association, where Tomi is past president. A living room is transformed into the “Great Hall” by moving every piece of furniture. The setting is just enough space for seating the 17-19 of us, but with no room to move around otherwise. Hence the decision to have a “progressive” Thanksgiving, dividing up all the ingredients among the participants. Frank’s son, Kyle, sometimes cooks the turkey and dressing. This year Tomi’s sister and brother-in-law did the deed on their Weber. Amazingly, it all works and comes together without a hitch.
Our gang is amazing. We are still friends after many years and several Thanksgivings and even bigger productions for milestone birthdays. I heartily concur with our late friend, Kurt Vonnegut. Everyone should have a gang. If you don’t have one, get one.