Leftovers are what Thanksgiving is all about | Living with Gleigh

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my husband's family last weekend, but I do plan on cooking a simple, carb loaded Thanksgiving meal on the actual day.


I have to say, even if we were to spend Thanksgiving Day at someone else’s house, I still would cook the traditional dinner at home either the day before or the day after, because what’s most important are the leftovers.


My mother will come over to share our meal with us. We’ll eat dinner, then kick back in the family room and watch a movie together. It’s not without design that it’s only the five of us for dinner; the less people the less chaos and the more leftovers.


Last year my mother-in-law and father-in-law joined us and it was probably one of the best Thanksgivings we've ever had. We had dinner and let my mother-in-law pick out the movie, plus they live rather far away, so they didn’t take home any leftovers.


My mother and I had a long conversation last week about our penchant for having low-key Thanksgiving meals. My mom likes having my family's undivided attention, because even though she only lives 3 miles from us, we don't see her as often as she would like. I like having a laid back, quiet time without rushing. However, I have always thought it would be fun to have a big gathering. You know? All the women cooking in the kitchen, the kids playing, people fighting with each other... Um?

I’ve heard about these chaotic family Thanksgivings, but have never experienced one myself. I grew up in Eastern Washington; our extended family was in Western Washington. Our travel plans to spend Thanksgiving with our extended family was dependent on the weather on Snoqualmie Pass and my parents’ work.


My dad drove a truck every day, picking up the daily newspapers from Western Washington to deliver them to Eastern Washington, including holidays. So we would drive to our relative’s house in Western Washington for dinner, then head off to pick up the newspapers in downtown Seattle and go home. My mom had to be home by 3:00am to deliver the newspapers in the whole town. Once my sister and I got to driving age, we delivered newspapers too. We weren’t around at dinner long enough for chaos to ensue.

One of the best Thanksgivings we had in those days was the one when we got snowed in – we had all my mom’s homemade apple pies. We just got one of the chickens we had raised out of the freezer and feasted on roasted chicken, potatoes and pie.


My mom asked me who I would invite to a big dinner. I don’t personally have a big family, just my husband, kids, my sister and my mother. My sister never comes home for Thanksgiving. My husband’s siblings have families of their own they spend time with.


The obvious people to invite are ones without families in the area. I could only list a couple people I know who fit that bill, but it got me to thinking. I came up with an ingenious thought: I'd invite people who don't want to be with their families because of the drama and chaos. All my Thanksgivings are easy-going. Perhaps it would be kind of me to extend an invitation to people who have never experienced the holiday as a laid back event.


But as I ready myself for our relaxing family holiday, I contemplated the real meaning of Thanksgiving: It's not about the meal or even the people who attend, it’s about how much leftovers we have when it’s over – and pie.


Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to not having chaos at Thanksgiving and eating leftovers. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website or on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh.” Her column is available every week at under the Lifestyles section.

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