The year the cat ate the turkey left to thaw on top of the freezer (no, that's not the way to defrost a turkey) was one of the only times my family went out together to eat Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant.
When you hail from a family of 12 children, eating out is a rarity. We probably could have made some chicken or hamburgers that year, but my Dad thought it would be fun to go out. So we did.
Don't ask me how we managed this event. It was a blur of getting younger siblings properly dressed for the event because that's how you went out to dinner in those days. Then we had to arrange for enough high chairs and keep my seven brothers from playing a makeshift hockey game with the silverware and little butter containers on the tables.
The restaurant - which is no longer in operation - did its best to accommodate our needs. They pushed tables together and assigned several waitresses to our tables.
For the record, my family was and still is not anything like those perfectly coiffed parents and wonderfully-behaved children on that TV show with all those kids. We were lucky to find shoes that matched and coats with all their buttons. intact. And there was never a trip in the car that someone didn't fight over the window seats in the station wagon. I hated the rear-facing third seat in those vehicles and I'm sure the drivers behind us didn't appreciate the kids waving to them for miles on end.
I don't recall having enough seat belts for everyone, either, but none of us flew out of the car windows when my Dad stopped short. I guess being wedged in the car wall-to-wall prevented any of us from being jostled around.
It was a wonderful experience, one never repeated again on a holiday for my family. But that's OK because we all savor the memory of that experience as much as the spaghetti we ate that day. Yes, some of us ate spaghetti for our Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant.
Thanksgiving Day seems lost in the bigger picture of holidays anymore. It is barely recognized other than a day of eating turkey, watching football and planning the Black Friday shopping strategy.
My family, though spread near and far and numbering more than 50 immediate family members, has always treated this day as very special, almost sacred, because it is one of the best days for getting together and being thankful for just that.
So many families are torn apart by war, family turmoil, illness, addiction and the inability to let bygones be bygones. Thanksgiving is an opportunity every year to repair what went wrong and just be glad for what is before us now.
Maybe that's easier said than done but I hope your Thanksgiving Day next week will be one for the memory books, even if it means eating spaghetti for dinner. It's all good.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.