This morning on a group text, accidentally including me, the sister who lives on the other side of the state, my three siblings discussed who is making my late grandmother Anna Lee’s chicken and homemade egg noodles (think rustic chicken and dumplings). Over text they delegated who was to bring dessert, dinner rolls, and iced tea to my father’s 120-acre farm north of Kansas City, Missouri. I did not know until this morning’s text that my retired, bachelor farmer father was hosting a pre-Thanksgiving meal and cooking a roast with carrots and potatoes, this from a man who usually dines at the Hungry Mule Cafe or subsists on egg salad sandwiches, barbecue potato chips, and Milwaukee’s Best. I am happy that my family is coming together and breaking bread with my hermit father, and I am also sad I will not be there.
What is somewhat comforting about missing a meal with my family is this past Sunday I hosted my very first Friendsgiving on vintage Noritake china. The official mash-up of “friends” with “Thanksgiving” has been around since 2007, though perhaps the Friends TV episodes made many viewers feel as if Friendsgiving has been around much longer, even though the phrase was not yet in use in 1994. Regardless of the made-up celebration’s origins, I knew this year I wanted to gather the people who have supported my small family–me, my husband, and 19-month-old daughter–through the slog of 2018.
I have no family in St. Louis, so my friends really and truly are my family. As we celebrated my daughter’s first year of life at the end of March, the guests assembled had also sustained us with home-cooked meals, babysitting, generous gifts of clothing, books, and art, parenting wisdom that was often funny and nonjudgmental, and so much more.
Luci has spent enough time with our friends that it is not uncommon for her to hold her hands up, wanting to be held by her extended family, our friends. Luci especially loves playing with the older kids, who show her the marvels of Minecraft or let her sit on their laps as she, an only child, observes a world full of children’s conversations and wonder. When I was laid off in May, my friends encouraged me and helped me find my professional footing as I mourned a career I had loved. As we learned how to parent, our marriage also weathered hard times, where my husband and I sometimes talked past each other, did not understand who we had become as a couple after adding our much-wanted child. These same friends stood by our side as we worked, continue to work, on fortifying our relationship and our love.
So, to buy an 11-pound ham, peel 16 pounds of Russet potatoes, cook garlic green beans and homemade mac-and-cheese, and to proof, knead, rest, and bake the Parker House rolls was the least we could do to say thank you. Our 1928 bungalow is small, barely 1,000 square feet, yet we somehow managed to squeeze in two dozen people. I let go of trying to be the perfect hostess or worrying that we ate with plastic cutlery instead of silverware. Friends, true friends, do not care if they are drinking out of plastic cups or the bookshelves are a little dusty. Friends also not only help you bear the weight of life, but they bring small-batch bourbon, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, cookies and cupcakes, Brussels sprouts with bacon, homemade cranberry relish, and tell you to drink a glass of wine and sit awhile. I would gladly wash a million dishes again to hear my friends’ laughter and the voices of the family one assembles, together, under one roof.