Once upon a time, many years ago, members of my family stood in a parking lot after a family funeral and were saying our goodbyes. It had been a sad experience but we had had a remarkably good time and were commenting on how much we enjoyed each other’s company. My husband said, “I’ve got a great idea! Why doesn’t everyone come to our house for Thanksgiving!”

An enthusiastic response greeted him and that year a few of my siblings showed up on our doorstep on Thanksgiving Eve. I think there was also a baby or two.

Over the years the celebration took on a life of its own and the crowd grew. We would borrow tables from school and set up the feast in the living room to accommodate everyone.

It was not a closed event: Friends, new babies, fiancés would call and announce they were coming and what could they bring. One guy whom I had never met, but was a friend of a brother, brought a St. Bernard. One brother’s mother-in-law came and continued to show up years after my brother and her daughter had divorced.

One brother was making a valiant effort to get there from Paris when he was robbed. He called to see if we could get him some money fast while he worked on a temporary passport. We borrowed the money from Household Finance and wired it to him at Orly Airport. He walked in just as we were passing the mashed potatoes.

The year our older son had been traveling around Europe he suddenly realized the all-important day was drawing nigh. He sent a message that he would be arriving at JFK early Thanksgiving morning and could someone meet him. Oh, and he said he would be traveling on Magic Bus Airlines. Magic Bus!! When I called the airport they said they had never heard of it. So my daughter and her boyfriend headed for New York on Thanksgiving morning and drove up and down, and, unbelievably, found him hitchhiking.

One brother made it home from Vietnam just in time. Another came all the way from Alaska.

Another year a niece broke up with her boyfriend just before dinner, but a cousin showed up unexpectedly and we didn’t have to change the table setting.

The mob grew. The turkeys approached 33 pounds in size. A case of champagne had become standard. One brother brought a blue Hubbard squash which took a whole morning to peel.

When we moved to Vermont, so did Thanksgiving. It was a little more relaxed for me because I didn’t have to worry about the noise bothering the neighbors. There may have been a few traumatized deer lurking around, tho.

The early babies had grown up and were bringing babies of their own.

We moved the feast out to the garage. We hung quilts, borrowed chairs and tables from the fire department, and got the biggest turkey ever. We baked 15 pies.

At last after the dreaded group photo, we sat down to dinner. We passed the peas, the dressing, the turkey, the squash, the cranberry sauce, the potatoes, and the olives.

And suddenly, out of the bedlam, I heard a plaintive voice saying “Is the gravy all gone?”

My nephew Tyler was seated at the end of the food chain and the gravy had run out before it got to him. Apparently there had been only enough gravy for 34 people. And we had 35!

At that moment, I said to myself, “That’s it. No more!!”

The next year I sent out the news to everyone that I had to work on Thanksgiving Day that year _ I did not tell them I had volunteered. The cycle was broken and they all managed very well with their own holiday festivities.

The deer enjoy the peace and quiet.