Forget everything you ever learned in school about the first Thanksgiving. As any 20th century new bride can tell you, the first Thanksgiving is really all about that first big dinner you hosted and cooked for two dozen relatives, in an apartment barely big enough for you, your husband, and a small dog.
A very small dog.
Rob and I were married on October 20, 1974, and immediately moved into our own one-bedroom apartment in West Babylon, with a kitchen the size of a shoebox. When we got back from our honeymoon, I promptly invited everybody for Thanksgiving dinner. Back then, everybody was a lot of bodies. All our closest relatives were alive and well and on speaking terms with each other. The tablecloths my sweet mother-in-law had made for me were brand new and completely spotless. I knew how to cook scrambled eggs, meatloaf, and anything under a broiler - chicken, hamburger, lamb chops. I could open a can of Campbell's tomato soup like nobody's business. I had an egg beater (non-electric), a gas stove, a cookbook (The Joy of Cooking) and a potato masher. And I had a working telephone with which to call the help line, which was manned 24/7 by my grandmother (Mom) and my mother-in-law (Mom). This girl's on FIRE!
I had no knife skills - I did not even own a decent knife, and did not know I needed one - but I seemed to have an innate talent for following a recipe to successful results. When I think back, this was a skill likely honed during my summers taking bacteriology in high school, applying what the teacher, Marvin Waks, referred to as "cookbook chemistry" when brewing up batches of tasty agar for the various bacterial colonies to feast upon. Oh yum, right?
Either the dinner was a huge success, or both sides of the family were being extremely kind. I managed to make the stuffing according to my grandmother's directions. I can't call it a recipe, because that implies fairly specific amounts of each ingredient, but it was close enough and the stuffing wasn't bad at all. Robert carved the turkey, which I remember being the size of a VW beetle, and best of all, we had my grandmother's sweet potato pie as the tastiest side dish ever. Except I didn't make that one, she did. And sent it along with my Pop, because she was home with walking pneumonia and had to miss my first Thanksgiving. Everybody there went nuts for the "pie" and so I've been making it for almost every Thanksgiving since then, as well as for Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, New Year's Eve, and a couple of Tupperware parties. If I try to change it at all, I am promptly chastised. In the words of Joseph Stalin, "deviation is treason."