Randi Kreiss

Home is where the heart — and New York bagels — are

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Our Thanksgivings are different from many, in that our kids travel from far-flung places and move in for the entire week. This is a plus-minus experience for all of us, I’m guessing, except Lilly Bee, the dog, who is out of her mind with unadulterated joy. I mean, think of all the extra smelly socks and dropped food and unzipped backpacks stuffed with stashes of candy.

This year I had a new idea, which is always dangerous. I decided to improve our sleeping arrangements. On impulse, I bought two pop-up sleeping tents and two mattresses to set up in our living room. The idea was that the grandkids, 14, 12, 10 and 9, could have their own private spaces instead of the usual sleeping bags and improvised “nests.” The two adult couples could then have their own childhood bedrooms, and everyone could get a good night’s sleep. Ha, ha, ha.

The tents were so wildly popular that the kids moved in immediately, and basically hung out inside 24/7, except for forced marches, meals and the search for outlets to charge their devices.  My living room looked a little like a Civil War battleground, with tents and supplies and half-eaten rations. I confess, I channeled my inner Mary Todd Lincoln, screaming and all, when I spotted two mustard-encrusted hot dogs rolling under the couch.

Every year, my son and daughter inspect the house, checking out what, if anything, is different, which is laughable, because nothing ever is. My daughter did find a previously undiscovered yellowed note taped to her old bedroom wall, with instructions on how to “reboot a computer from a floppy disc.” She suggested we turn our house into a museum of the ’80s and charge admission.

Still, even with all the unsolicited critiques of our décor and retro brown furniture, it is evident that the power of this home, this place that holds their childhood memories, is fierce and lasting. We built something here that will stand even after the house falls down.

This year they decided to go to the city as much as possible, and we were blessed with beautiful weather, so they came and went over the week.

Two of my grandchildren, who live in a rural area out West, had never been to a real mall, so last week I treated them to the Full Monty of malls — a day at Roosevelt Field — where we visited every store, ate bad mall food and generally became over-stimulated and over-fed. They loved it.

Then, everyone decided to go to the city on Tuesday before Thanksgiving to visit Chinatown, eat at Joe’s Shanghai and then walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. I was supposed to stay home, shop for Thanksgiving dinner and do all the cooking. But then I thought, why be the worker bee when everyone knows I’m the queen? I never get to see the kids. I’m going to the city, too, and I did.

The next day they all abandoned the mother ship again, and headed for the city. That day, I discovered that I could make pretty much an entire Thanksgiving meal for 12 people, including shopping for the food, in eight hours. (Full disclosure: I had cooked ahead and frozen the gravy, one blueberry cake, one apple cake and one spinach pie.)

I headed to the supermarket at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday. I bought a fresh turkey, seasoned it and then roasted all the sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and squash. I baked a salami and composed a cheese platter.

On Thanksgiving Day, everyone was in residence. The grandkids set the table. My daughter made the stuffing, with much drama and dire predictions about how a good stuffing can go bad with insufficient rosemary.

My son, using four thermometers, roasted the turkey. My son-in-law went surfing. My daughter-in-law wisely kept a low profile, because the rest of us were shouting in the kitchen about too much salt and not enough butter. I heated up the roasted veggies.

It was the most chaotic, dysfunctional cooking experience I have ever been part of. But somehow, at 6 p.m., the precise appointed hour, we sat down to a fabulous meal, cooked by committee, and stuffed ourselves until we were neither ambulatory nor sentient. I might have combusted if I didn’t take a walk around the block after dessert.

Like all of our Thanksgivings, it was a Thanksgiving unlike all the others. Except for one thing: Everyone came home.

What my husband and I asked ourselves after they flew off: How many more years can we do this? Would they come if we didn’t pay for their tickets? Do they all eat this much at home? How can we ever bear not having these faces around our table when Thanksgiving rolls around?

Do they just come for the bagels?

Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.