— Charlene Shaw, Grove City, Pa.
‘I made the decision to come out’
Fifteen years ago, at age 19, I made the decision to come out as a lesbian to my evangelical parents. I was a sophomore in college, and Thanksgiving break was coming up. I decided to wait to have “the talk” until the day after Thanksgiving. I knew it was going to go poorly (and it did). But I wanted to savor one last holiday together, as a family, before the walls came crashing down. I still remember my grandfather’s quietly wry jokes, my dad’s terrible stuffing that no one would ever say to his face was terrible, my mom and aunt bustling in the kitchen, laughing.
— Megan A, Seattle
‘I checked on the turkey just as it caught fire’
I ordered a “midsize” turkey from a woman who raised them. The afternoon before Thanksgiving, I drove to her farm to pick up my turkey. It was 37 pounds! It was the only one she had left. On my way home, I stopped at the local hardware store to buy a pan the turkey would fit in. Armed with a huge aluminum pan, I went home to discover that the bird did not fit into our wall oven. My husband cut off the drumsticks and some other parts. On Thanksgiving morning, I put the turkey in the oven. Several hours later, I checked on the turkey just as it caught fire. Some of the melting fat had dripped down onto the heating coil leading to flames and lots of smoke. Of course, just as we threw open all the doors and windows to get the smoke out of the house, my parents drove up for dinner.
— Barbara S, Madison, Wis.
‘I was a college sophomore 1,200 miles from home’
In 1974 I was a college sophomore 1,200 miles from home, with no money for airfare. When the dorms closed for the holiday, I was staying alone in a borrowed basement apartment known as The Pit and planning a lonely Thanksgiving meal of Kraft mac and cheese, when a friend’s boyfriend called. Gary had to stay in town and, like me, had no Thanksgiving plans, but he did have a turkey he got at work. He offered to share it and pay for all the trimmings if I would cook the meal. I had never cooked a turkey or much of anything else, but I quickly agreed. We swung by the A.&P.; bought canned veggies, instant mashed potatoes and a frozen pumpkin pie, and I set about cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. Another friend joined us and we dined by candlelight, listened to Elton John and the Beach Boys and talked about home.
— Rosemary S, Peoria, Ill.
‘The gift of my beautiful daughter’
We were young and newly married when our baby daughter died a little after 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving of 2002. She was stunningly beautiful, wore a pink rose clip in her thick dark hair and slept under the softest pink rosebud baby blanket the nurses gave her. The last 15 Thanksgivings have always included big bouquets of pink roses and baby’s breath sprinkled throughout the house. Sometimes turkey, pie, raucous family and football. Sometimes a simple hot toddy, solitude, jazz and candlelight. But always pink roses and a toast to the thing in all my world I am most thankful for, the gift of my beautiful daughter Emily.
— Suzanne Janczewski, Philadelphia
‘The gravy separator was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen!’
Three Thanksgivings ago I had just started dating a co-worker named John. We are both in the military and were stationed far from home. We were invited to another co-worker’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving, and as his wife was preparing the pan drippings to make the gravy, I noticed this magical device she was using to collect the turkey juices. Now, most people in the cooking community have seen a gravy separator before, but I am an American who grew up in a Middle Eastern immigrant family, so it was completely new to me. I must have gone on about it with her for 5 minutes. It was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen! Months later, John got me the exact same gravy separator for my birthday. It is by far one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. John and I have since gotten married, and when people ask me when I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with him, I tell them it was when he gave me the gravy separator.
— Nancy Vaughns, Kailua, Hawaii
Share your Thanksgiving story in the comments of this article.