Joan Larsen’s Thanksgiving at the Lake House: My Thoughts the Day After

Posted on November 29, 2013


By Joan Larsen

You have caught me lounging  . . .

not planning to get up anytime soon.

Outside, out that big window,

I can almost watch the ice,

no longer near the shore,

creeping onto the main body of the lake.

Flocks of geese, perhaps the last of them,

vie for places in what is left

of the open water.


In our part of the world,

Winter has made its entrance.



My story of our Thanksgiving, mostly in pictures, has elicited so many small notes to me in private – and questions, many many questions in fact – that I certainly would be happy to answer.  And what better time than now, when I am alone with my thoughts of our holidays, past and present, and thoughts of the moment while they are fresh.

Most of those who wrote asked – seemingly quite seriously – if they could be invited next year.  To all of you, I was extremely flattered, more than a bit amused to begin to imagine this as a gala of sorts.  My imagination went wild in fact.  How does one say “No” politely?  There is no way.  But even if we do ourselves proud, this is a family thing, put together with fun and love.  I know you understand.

To not keep you in suspense:  Thanksgiving again was touchingly wonderful . . . a time, I hope, that will be kept in the hearts of the young and “older” forever.

“This looks so special, but how do you keep the family involved to the extent you do from beginning to end?”   To be honest, who doesn’t want to be where “the action” is .  .  . and laughter seems never-ending.  We bump into each other sometimes.  The melting butter burns.  The rolls fall on the floor (we call them “floor rolls” for good reason).  The verbal reactions to tiny disasters cause“one-up-man-ship” in clever responses.

The children – and now the grandchildren, even when they are toddlers can fold napkins!  We buy the store out of parsley – truly – and use it lavishly as well as a few other gorgeous leafy vegetables.  Kids learn to arrange, rearrange, ‘til the serving platters are perfection.  Each year they are more inventive – and praised (!) as we sample.  Shrimp sauce with just enough horseradish is an art.  Samples are passed out until it is to everyone’s liking. . . and then we dig in to the shrimp and into the drinks all set out on the kitchen table for dashing back and forth.  Once the children or grandchildren are teenagers, they have already stuffed a turkey or prepared prime rib.  Now they begin to learn to carve – and nothing they do is deemed wrong.  By 16, they are usually sitting at the end of the gorgeous dining room table they decorated, carving up a storm.   I don’t have to tell you that all of this causes the confidence level to be raised at a new high.

Well, for those of you who asked how early do you get the kids involved, I say toddler age.  They want to be “big kids” and they are on their way, with a little help.  Big kids let them put the parsley on and make them feel good.  Little hands applaud themselves in delight.

I call the pre-dinner group action some of our “funnest” times.

For those of you who do not dawdle over dinner, talking and laughing and just plain enjoying family, The Lake House would not appeal.  I remember when a grandchild about 9 asked if he could sing a song fit for the holiday.  We had never done anything like that.  But he sang beautifully – and we had not known he could.  Then he asked if we would join in – and, to be honest, we felt – well, embarrassed a bit.

But not any more.  The children are musicians and they have decided music has a place with celebration.  The room rings.  We reminisce, or tell things never told to the whole group before.  One thing leads to another . . . and when it is time for the key lime pie, parts made by each of the children, we have room for that last course.

“How long do your guests stay?”  Well, the “guests” are family really and we consider ourselves as one.  But, after dinner, the children have usually invited one friend or more over for the evening.   No, not for TV . . . as the friends want to come as they know that we “do” the wild and competitive board games to perfection.  Every man for himself and we don’t let anyone “win”.  The kids’ friends are always wide-eyed that three generations of family are standing on their feet to grab a card first and win . . . and get into the spirit.  We have to apologize to other parents for getting their kids home at midnight sometimes – and we hear them begging to stay longer.

Let’s just say that – while they sneak looks at their phones at times – that is just life for kids today.  The kids aren’t dumb.  They can see that talking, laughing, screaming over games beats out sitting alone looking at the plastic in their hands.

For those of you who were so kind to write and ask where to get the decorations, wanting more detail on making the day so much fun, and some great questions and thoughts I have left out, I have jotted them down for next year.

There is no greater satisfaction than seeing that everyone had a wonderful time.  That I could see that the family connection only strengthened with the togetherness is my frosting for the season.

For – if we are honest – the closeness of family is our greatest gift!


JoanAvatarWriter Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”