Who’s to Blame?

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    It’s Thanksgiving time again, and I know I speak for every woman in my immediate family over the age of thirteen when I say this: yippee.

    And while we’re on the subject of cooking. Not long ago, one of my sisters declared that she blames our mom for her own shortcomings in the kitchen. You never let us cook when we were growing up, she told our dear, semi-sweet mother. So to all you grown-up kids who were never allowed to cook when you were little and who consequently can’t open a jar of red sauce, dump it in a pan, and turn on a burner, your mom says this: oh well.

    thanksgiving_turkeyCan’t cook? Blame your parents. Self esteem issues? Blame your parents. Ants on your counter top? Well, that might be the sugar bowl, but in a pinch, you could always – BLAME YOUR PARENTS.

    Whether they’re rookies or veterans, parents are just used to getting the blame – for everything.

    The foul weather on the day of the long awaited outdoor event. The glob of strawberry jam on what used to be the last pair of clean jeans in the house. And of course, it’s my husband’s fault that countless basketballs (okay three) have been destroyed by carelessly, nay, recklessly backing out of the driveway without first getting down on hands and knees to check for a ball that surely he must have lodged under the van in the first place. Pop! Oops! Oh well.

    The good news is, by now I have survived enough rainy days, blotted enough jam stains, and considered going into therapy often enough to figure out that I really can’t blame a whole lot on my parents. Except my height — or lack thereof. That’s their fault. And my inability to part with lunch meat. That’s my mom’s. Just ask my husband how long this girl can make a pound of sliced turkey from the deli last.

    And since we’re talking turkey… Over the years, I’ve also considered going into therapy to figure out how the heck to celebrate Thanksgiving with my crew.

    Should I: (a) spend all day cooking? (b) buy a turkey-scented Yankee candle for our house and drive over the river to my Aunt Peggy’s for the feast? Or (c) stuff the turkey where the sun don’t shine and go to Disney World, where it does?

    “All of the above!” my daughters exclaim.

    Well, this year, I would choose (d) travel back in time and reclaim the traditions that made the Thanksgivings of my childhood so memorable.

    Like breaking stale bread with my brother for homemade dressing. Or watching football with my dad as he snacked on specially requested smoked oysters. And taking turns writing our initials on Ritz crackers with specially requested Cheese Whiz.

    Or my favorite: squirming over a piece of notebook paper for hours, perfecting the venerated Thanksgiving prayer for my first editor, the man who helped me fall in love with words, my father.

    But today the challenge remains: How can I make my family’s Turkey Day something more than a tryptophan-induced nap while watching a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving? How can it be something more than the day before we get the Christmas decorations out of the attic?

    Not long ago, I asked my mom, What was so special about Thanksgiving at our house, anyway? Why was it actually fun?

    “Blame your dad,” she said. “It was his favorite holiday.”

    A-ha! It’s clear to me now. It will take a miracle to pull off a Thanksgiving as fulfilling for my family as it was for me and my siblings when I was growing up. And now, according to my mom, I have someone to blame…

    Thanks, giving dad.

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    Karen Schwartzkopf
    Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family: husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director, and their daughters—Sam, Robin, and Lindsey. You can read Karen’s take on parenting in the Editor’s Voice.