We have a dining room, in our house, it was the reason I knew this house was the one. The dining room has french doors that lead to the living room, and a box-beamed ceiling, and big windows that face south and west. It has pine wood floors that are probably as old as the house, 95 years, nearly a century. This dining room, I imagine, has seen many a stately family dinner; I imagine that our house was once the home of a moderately wealthy family, what with its servant stairs and its three bedrooms, vast for the early 20th century.
We do not, however, use our dining room for eating. While we putter around, dreaming of having enough money and an emotionally-stable-enough patriarch to properly renovate the room that will be our master bedroom, we live in the dining room, every night I go to bed and gaze at the box-beams, painted white, the spider webs, and imagine the day they'll be sanded, stained; imagine the book shelves that will line the walls between the windows; imagine that my pottery is displayed there, and there, and there, in bold primary colors.
There is no time of the year that this rankles, more than the 30-some days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I had a dining room, with a proper table and a bunch of chairs, I could cook the way I love to do, I could finally be the mama I dream of, the one to whose home family far and wide gather for expansive, happily-baked meals. But I don't. Jonathan's grandma, who lives with her twin brother in an over-stuffed two-bedroom apartment less than a mile away, who lost her cooking mojo sometime in the early 80s, assumed we would come over for dinner. Jonathan, playing into the family way of swallowing one's happiness to do what seems proper, agreed that we would come over. I'd already talked to Larissa that we'd go there for dinner, and I'd dreamed of cooking in her kitchen, at least. We'd take pictures and make amazing things with vegetables and butter and talk about the essay-ish cookbooks we want to write.
I just realized that I am extremely un-grateful this Thanksgiving. We'll go to Jonathan's grandma's apartment and eat Safeway's take on turkey and stuffing. We'll bus over to Larissa's and eat whatever gratins and chutneys she has concocted, and I will bring pound cake. Ginger pound cake maybe! I will give thanks that my children are all adorable and smart and that people love me enough to buy my hat pattern (thank you! thank you! may all your heads be warm this holiday season!). I will be grateful that we bought this house five years ago, before the market went crazy, I will be grateful for every unfinished square inch, every wild place in our big yard. I will try to do things with love and generosity. I will make Jonathan promise that, by this time next year, we will be dining in my dining room, that next year, everyone will assume my house is the place to be.
And tomorrow, I'm going to go out and buy cranberries and brussel sprouts, I'm going to make a huge batch of stuffing, and I'm going to sit on my living room couch and eat my own cooking. Yum.