Growing up in Maine, in a large Catholic family in the ’50s and ’60s meant that you could not eat meat on Fridays. This wasn’t a particularly big deal most of the year. My mom would make Welsh rarebit, fish sticks, maybe tuna wiggle. But at Thanksgiving it did become a big deal. It meant no leftover plates the next day and especially, no hot turkey sandwiches with layers of stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce.

One year my mom wanted to try something new, as was her wont, and for Thanksgiving, in lieu of turkey, she prepared individual Cornish game hens…one for each of us. Since my grandparents from Aroostook County were visiting for the weekend, that meant she cooked nine! She had stuffed them with a wonderful mixture of breadcrumbs, pecans and crushed pineapple. Everyone raved, particularly my grandmother Bab. They were delicious, but quite hearty and none of us finished the whole bird. Not to worry; Mom had made little paper toothpick flags with our names. She placed them in the appropriate, partially eaten carcasses, and put them out in the cold pantry to await Saturday snacking.

So, we ignored them all day Friday. But on Saturday, we all prepared to take a bite of that delicious meat. But alas and alack! We found the meat, but no stuffing. Someone had quite methodically eaten all the stuffing out of every bird. Now, she never would own up to it, but I know Grammie Bab had eaten it all. She died at 102, in her own home in Mars Hill, never admitting her guilt.

This year, everyone’s Thanksgiving was in flux. Plans were made. COVID cases rose. Plans were remade. We went from having a multi-age celebration of 10 around my table to a dinner for two, with my son. After my daughter and family had their dinner, they would come for desserts outdoors, around the fire pit.

Because, it was to be a much smaller meal, I of course thought of the Cornish game hens from the past. My son agreed to the change and researched roasting recipes. I made the mashed potatoes, creamed onions and squash. My daughter brought over a green bean casserole. I didn’t make the pineapple stuffing, but in retrospect, perhaps I should have. I used my mom’s Lennox china and her sterling silver. It was a very fancy table for two.

I can’t say the game hens tasted as great as I remembered from years ago, but the love around my small table, and the familial love around the fire pit was exactly what I remembered from my past holidays.

This Thanksgiving was the third time my family celebrated Thanksgiving without my husband. We all miss him terribly. This year, everyone around Maine had things to miss. We missed neighbors, relatives, grandchildren running around and under the table, the huge Macy’s parade, and many football games. The list is endless.

But I remain hopeful for Thanksgiving 2021. And maybe, I’ll try that pineapple stuffing one more time.

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