There are roles to play on Thanksgiving Day; there are themes to invoke.
Unlike Marc, my role has never been that of the Thanksgiving cook. Mine has never been what I imagine as the master chef’s combination of well-timed fatigue and satisfaction on that afternoon. I have not been the kitchen genie whose menu has metamorphosed over a week of shopping and chopping and whipping and basting into the festive meal served before a table of waiting guests.
On the other hand, I have set Thanksgiving tables, folded napkins, arranged serving spoons, rinsed and dried wine glasses, dragged chairs from neighboring rooms to accommodate an ambitious guest list.
Likewise, I have stood by the Thanksgiving sink, diluting into insignificance the smears of cranberry sauce and giblet gravy, scalding my hands in hot rinse water, emptying sinks of suds and filling them again for the arrival of roasting pan and encrusted casserole dish and oversized serving platter.
What other role there is for me to claim does not figure in much of the Thanksgiving literature that I have read.
I simply watch through windows.
In the midst of laying out knives and spoons to the right of each plate, I can watch the trees outside a dining room window, the evergreen branches alert in the noonday sun. Above the heads of guests engaged in cocktails and conversation, I watch through sliding doors and catch the sudden shadow of a bird taking off from a leaf-strewn backyard. Returning inside after goodbyes in the driveway, I can stand by a living room window and watch red rear lights move ever deeper into the chill and dark of the November night.
No one else knows each Thanksgiving whether I have filled this particular role or not.
No one should if I have done it well.