In days of old, we had the traditional Thanksgiving dinners. Mom cooking, Dad orchestrating and kids eating.

It was a 1950s kind of things. It led into the ’60s. We grew older, but never grew out of our appetites. We’d sit around a big table and pass all sorts of food around. I passed on most of it. I didn’t go for stuffing or dressing. Yams, no. I would take one green bean, to justify the three bacon bits it came with.

I’d eat the bacon bits, making like I ate all but one green bean.

I filled up on turkey, mashed potatoes (lots of gravy) and salad.

Dad carved the turkey. I was always impressed. I wondered how he learned the craft. If he had to train under a master turkey carver. Mom spent the morning in the kitchen baking and preparing all the side dishes — half of which I wouldn’t eat.

In time, my two sisters would pitch in with the cooking. And cleaning up. The menfolk had the job of stuffing themselves. We were very old school.

Mom always made sure we were well stuffed.

“Would you like some more turkey? More potatoes? More dressing?”

“Yes, yes and no,” was my reply.

That was before dessert.

In time, my parents could no longer host Thanksgiving. You know, age and mortality. Mom and Dad died within a year of each other, 16 years ago.

My younger sister, Cathy, answered the call to duty. She began hosting Thanksgiving dinners. We’d trek to Maricopa and pass the turkey.

In time, her own daughter got married and moved to New Jersey, to pursue a doctorate at Princeton. Megan and her husband, Steele, now have five daughters. Cathy and her husband, Joe, celebrate their Thanksgivings with them.

Our daughter, Sarah, spends Thanksgivings with her friend, Kinsey, in Massachusetts. Sarah’s in graduate school at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The fall semester ends before Thanksgiving. It’s the all-new COVID schedule.

More recently, Cindy and I began to host smaller gatherings. My brother Jim would drive down from Miami, Arizona. Christine, my older sister, would drive down from St. Johns — with Paul, her husband. We served turkey and mashed potatoes. Store-bought dressing. No point trying to duplicate my mother’s recipe. Too hard. And store-bought cranberry sauce. No point trying to match my mother’s.

This year, Cindy and I are planning a COVID-safe Thanksgiving. We’ll be cooking and eating for two. Cindy says: “I don’t want to get sick.”

I don’t want that either. Who would find things for me?

Christine will stay in St. Johns. She and Paul won’t go hungry. Megan, Aga and nephews Ryan and Ian pitched in to buy her and Paul a ready-made, traditional Thanksgiving meal. They can pick it up at the Springerville Safeway. My Miami brother will join them for dinner.

Auntie’s nieces and nephews think the world of her.

Nephew Ryan flew F-18 Hornets for the Navy. He’s now going to the University of Chicago. He’s pursuing an MBA. His wife, Aga, is a resident at a nearby hospital. She graduated from the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix last spring. Just in time to tackle a pandemic.

Nephew Ian works at a Washington, D.C., think tank. I’d have trouble working at a think tank. After half a day of thinking, I’m ready for a nap.

He’ll be spending Thanksgiving with Ryan and Aga.

I get our extended-family updates from sister Christine.

I pretty much keep to myself. And Cindy. She’s hard to ignore. She’s always there, to comfort me and offer me helpful reminders. We’re preparing the full Thanksgiving meal. We have a small turkey. We hope it fits in our new countertop oven.

We have a regular big oven, a classic 1960s Pink GE. It’s tucked right into the wall. Some years back, the wiring caught fire. The oven cooked itself. We paid maybe $1,000 to have an electrician put in a dedicated electrical circuit — one just for the oven. We paid another $1,600 to have the oven restored. New wiring. New elements. New this. New that.

It still doesn’t work. But it looks nice. And it never needs cleaning.

Maggie the Shih Tzu won’t be seated at the table. But she’ll get plenty of turkey. We did disinvite one guest. Politics had nothing to do with it. We just weren’t sure if one little mouse could handle all that tryptophan.

He had made himself at home behind the sewing-machine cabinet. It might have been a girl mouse. Hard to say. Anyway, you could hear him at night, fluffing his bed. I caught him in a live trap. Just a little guy. He wouldn’t eat much turkey.

If we lived in a cartoon world, I’d set a place for him at the table. He’d have a little plate with turkey and stuffing. And a side dish of cheese.

Of course, we don’t live in a cartoon world. I let him go in the front yard. He scampered away.

Maybe he’ll be back for Christmas.


Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at