Thanksgiving was always the big holiday for my father, so since his death it's been a difficult time. For the first couple afterward, my stepmother came up to visit me and Geoff in Montreal, because she didn't even want to be in the house, let alone accept one of the kind invitations she had from friends. Last year she volunteered to help serve at a free dinner hosted by a local wonderful brewpub, and had such a good time that she decided to do it again this year, and asked us if we'd like to join her. We were delighted to!
It was a lot of fun. We got there at 11:30, to get prepped before they started serving at noon, but everything was already set up, so we just chilled for half an hour, and then they stood us up behind the steam trays and off we went. The food was terrific -- local businesses had donated nineteen organic turkeys, and the stuffing and cranberry sauce were delicious, plus squash and potatoes, and apple crisp and ice cream for dessert, and we were ladling it out with gusto. We served well over two hundred people in five hours, and there was still food left over; I loved that we didn't have to stint to make it last, but could keep encouraging people to come back for more, and to fill takeout boxes. One couple with two kids had a whole stack of them. Some diners were pretty clearly folks in need, and some were folks who just wanted to come out for a shared community freewill-donation dinner (last year it raised $2000 in donations for the local food bank), and some were volunteers fueling up for their own shifts; Geoff and I were supposed to help for just a couple of hours, but we were energized and having fun and ended up working the whole five hours, except for a break to eat ourselves. Plus the pub was also serving its own brews; after a few hours over the steam trays I very much enjoyed a half-pint of oatmeal stout. (At one point one of the staff came by asking if anyone needed a break and were we all well hydrated, and I assured her I was beerdrated.)
At the end of the afternoon we thanked the cooks and the kitchen staff who'd kept the heaping trays of food coming for hours, packed up some leftovers for ourselves, and staggered home with big smiles on our faces.
Today we went for a hike up a local hill for beautiful views over the river valley, came home for the traditional post-Thanksgiving lunch of post-Thanksgiving leftovers, and are now relaxing before meeting friends for Mexican food for dinner and then to see Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky in concert. Tomorrow we go home and back to our everyday lives, but this has been a lovely break.
(Before this we spent three days with my mother, and left on Thanksgiving morning, ducking out on her meal with her in-laws, which I'm very glad of, it having been very high-stress
the last time we were part of it...)
And as I wrote this up, my stepmother found a picture of the three of us serving up food in the local paper!