Having Strays for Thanksgiving (No need to call PETA; it’s not how it sounds)


I think what I love most about Thanksgiving is that we are more likely to include friends in our celebration for this holiday than any other. Please don’t misunderstand, I would rather be with my family than any other people on the planet, but I like that Thanksgiving somehow seems to turn friends into family. After all, this is a tradition that dates back to the very first Thanksgiving when the Pilgrims invited some members of the local Wampanoag tribe over for dinner. To this day, many people, especially those of us who don’t live close to family, are more likely to spend Thanksgiving with a combination of friends and family.

We moved away from our extended family when I was in high school. At first it felt strange to not participate in the big family Thanksgivings that I had known all of my life. We started inviting other “Thanksgiving orphans” (a friend of mine who became a regular at our Thanksgiving feasts for a few years called us all “strays”) to join us for lupper (the name for a meal that is served too late to be called lunch but too early to be called supper). A couple of weeks before the big day, my mom would always ask any invited guests to tell her what dish they looked forward to the most on Thanksgiving. Then she would be sure that our guests would find that dish on the table when we sat down to eat. Over the years, fulfilling our guests’ requests added some atypical Thanksgiving fare to our menu. For several years we had black beans for carpoolqueen who always had those at Thanksgivings with her missionary family in Guatemala. We had never had stewed tomatoes with our Thanksgiving dinner until my husband became part of the family. I always thought my mom a very gracious hostess to be sure that her guests would have at least one thing on the table that made them feel at home.

Every year, my mom and I make a list of all the things we’re having for Thanksgiving lupper. We may include cooking times or cookbook page numbers on the list. The list helps us from getting halfway through the meal only to remember that the cranberries are still in the fridge. We write the year at the top and keep the lists every year so we won’t have to start from scratch each year, but also to serve as fun memories of great meals past.

I couldn’t read carpoolqueen’s reminiscence of her first solo Thanksgiving without remembering my first Thanksgiving flying solo in the pilot seat of the kitchen. We were living in Rhode Island, expecting our first baby in January. We even had our very own orphan/stray. Our dear friend Bill had come up from Texas to spend the holiday with us. I treated my responsibilities in the kitchen as if I were preparing to launch a space shuttle. I had lists and sticky notes with cooking times and recipe page numbers. I made frequent calls back home to check and double check specific instructions. On the big day, everything went off without a hitch. Everything was ready at the same time, the turkey was moist, the yeast rolls were the perfect shade of brown. Visions of Martha Stewart danced in my head, until….dessert.

About three quarters of the way through our meal, I attempted to put the pies (pumpkin and pecan, of course) in the preheated oven. I’m not sure exactly what went wrong at this point. Maybe my center of gravity was off or I misjudged how close I could actually get my pregnant self to the oven. Maybe my dinner success had gone to my head. Whatever the reason, instead of gingerly placing the pies on the oven rack, I poured them into the floor of the hot oven. I soon set off the smoke alarms and filled the whole house with smoke. Even though it was a cold day in New England, we had to open the windows to air out the kitchen. The guys were sweet and insisted that they could not have made room for dessert and would have only eaten it to be polite. I vaguely remember scooping “pumpkin and pecan pudding” from the bottom of the oven and spooning some whipped cream over the top. Needless to say, no one asked for seconds.

This year, we’re the orphan/strays. I’ll be baking my mom’s yeast rolls and cooking my Uncle Joe’s crockpot macaroni and cheese to take over to our pastor’s house. We’ll probably eat too much and laugh just the right amount and hopefully leave better friends than we were when we came. I think the Pilgrims would be proud.



Filed under Thanksgiving

9 responses to “Having Strays for Thanksgiving (No need to call PETA; it’s not how it sounds)

  1. PaPa

    The only thing wrong with this picture is Mom, Chris, and I aren’t in it.

  2. Lupper. I love that! And I think you’re right. The pilgrims would be proud.

  3. I would love to meet your mom. That she would attempt to make Thanksgiving special for all the “strays” who found their way to your table just makes me want to cry. So sweet!

    I’m sorry you’re away from family this year. I’ve been in that place, but we have friends who are so dear to us, and sharing the holidays together has bonded us in amazing ways.

    Oh, that pie story made me want to cry for you. I’ve had a couple of incidents like that myself.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Aww, what a sweet story. Our pastor and his wife have “strays” for Thanksgiving often times. I’m blessed to have lots of family near.

    I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. carpoolqueen

    I still cry when I think of the beans. It was special. The aspic was *special* too .

  6. I understand the “strays” thing. I started the same thing years ago when my first husband was in the army and we were in Germany. None of us had extended family there, obviously, but I could not let the single soldiers eat in the mess hall and not have a home to go to. The 3 years we were there we had about 20 people to feed. Every year there seems to be someone who has nowhere to go so I make sure they are welcome here! This year our neighbors will be joining us! I can’t wait!

    I hope your Thanksgiving is great!


  7. How wonderfully sweet of your mother to serve her guests that way!

    Oh my – pumpkin pie gel all over the oven…I’ve been there. Different food, same smoke alarm screech!

  8. Just now reading your blog- been busy getting ready for a visit from some strays I actually adopted! And they’re bringing their five with them- isn’t the Lord incredible! He changed my very quiet, lonely Thanksgiving into a reunion. And we even have a new stray coming! Who’d thunk it?
    “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine….”
    Happy Thanksgiving and i miss u more!

  9. Cindy

    I just ran across your blog after spotting it on your Facebook. I am crying from laughing so hard at this entry. I remembered that you were funny, but now I remember JUST how funny you are!

    The pie incident reminds me of a story you told about going to SouthPark Mall with Jim Watkins and turning the wrong way down a one-way street. He dove into the floorboard of the car and was screaming and wouldn’t help you figure out what you did wrong. (Note to parents: She was NEW in town, not irresponsible!) It doesn’t sound that funny when I write it, but it is a hysterical story when you told it!

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