Preparing for the Feastival!

TurkeyU.S. Thanksgiving is coming up fast… Thursday… less than a week away! Woo-hoo! I love hosting our “no-seniors-ever-alone” pot-luck feastival. What’s a “feastival” and how are we preparing?

This is the one time each year that we entertain visitors in our home. Yep, we never have guests (except perhaps my brother) at any other time of the year. My spouse hates socializing and detests having visitors. But this one time each year, he gives in to me and puts on his happy face to welcome senior pals for a Thanksgiving pot-luck.

This event began quite small and innocently on the first Thanksgiving in 1998 that we were living in the house we built. Since my Mom had died just that previous September, we no longer had the usual Thanksgiving-at-Mom’s to go to. We thought we would begin our own tradition, by inviting four people — an aunt, uncle, and two of their friends — who otherwise would be alone at Thanksgiving. We had a great time, though I recall preparing a full Thanksgiving feast for six was a challenge, but easily met in my new chef’s kitchen.

PeanutstgOver the years, the event grew larger. Friends of friends introduced me to more friends and new friends and … more and more … seniors who would be alone on Thanksgiving. They would like to visit their family, but their children lived far away and they did not want to travel on Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas.

By the time the guest list grew to 30 in 2003, I decided to turn the event into a pot-luck. That is, I would prepare turkeys, and invite guests to bring a dish for four to complete the meal. That worked well, to a point. We always had more food than anyone could eat, and my (then) partner and I couldn’t eat all the leftovers. We also had trouble providing adequate parking for that many people. I also learned the hard way that when older people come to visit, they never want to leave.

By 2004, we had 45 guests and some of them were hanging from the rafters (we have a nice house, but not enough space for 45 people to sit and eat all at once). These events were going on for hours and hours and exhausted us — and that was before my spouse developed his disability which is very fatiguing.

By 2005, we got into a very methodical, well-orchestrated, planned event, complete with family who provided transportation, assigned “shifts” to spread the visits out over the day. Details about past events are here:

This year, since my spouse is retired, he has had time to prepare our home for this event. For the last several days, he has been cleaning and re-arranging furniture. I borrowed folding chairs and tables from neighbors, and he has been setting them up. Washing table cloths, decorating with autumn-themed gifts we have received over the years, and even setting up the food wrapper, a professional machine that wraps food with plastic wrap, so we can wrap up “a plate” to send home with each guest so we can reduce the amount of left-overs that we could not possibly eat.

I have made arrangements with nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters to provide transportation, greet, feed, and make our guests comfortable. My spouse, ever the thoughtful one, bought gifts for me to give to my family helpers.

Also this week, we gave ourselves (and our house) a gift — we had new ovens installed. My poor ol’ double ovens were on their last gasp, so with careful shopping and negotiations, we got a great deal on a new super-dooper huge convection double oven which was installed Wednesday. Now I’m all set to cook!

Tuesday, four fresh turkeys will be delivered from my buddy who runs a turkey farm. I will take off work on Wednesday to cook two of them, and then rise at 4am on Thanksgiving Day to cook the other two. Friends who do not cook will drop off everything else we need, from plastic cutlery to sturdy paper plates to trash bags … and soft drinks, cups, and more.

I think we are ready… so let’s bring on the feastival and have no seniors alone on Thanksgiving!

Life is short: celebrate your senior pals and give thanks for their friendship the year through!