Throughout high school, I had the same set of friends. I wasn’t one of those people that switched friend groups every other week, nor was I the loner type. I had one specific set of friends that I was the closest with. There are seven of us in total and all of us are complete different people. We all come from different backgrounds, have different beliefs and are all different ages. But while in high school, we never thought about how different we were because our differences were the things that brought us closer together.
I was the youngest in our group of friends with everyone else being in the grade above me. We never discussed our age separation because for us, it was normal. But like our age separation, we never discussed the end of the school year, and we never never discussed how fast graduation was coming for them. Graduation, for them, meant new opportunities, new experiences, and new friends. But graduation, for me, meant something completely different. It meant a year a loneliness, a year of solitude except for those odd weekends when someone came home, and a year of longing for my best friends.
Graduation soon approached and we all went our separate ways. All of them went to college, all in-state, but all too far to visit while I stayed in our hometown following the same old routine. For most friends, this would’ve been the end of a great friendship; however, for us, it wasn’t that easy. We all had a choice, a choice to either make time for each other once a year or to drift apart. The choice was beyond easy: we were friends and that wasn’t going to end because of a little (or a lot) of distance. Thus began the Friendsgiving tradition.
Starting the year after everyone graduated, we would all congregate to a designated house (usually our friend Justin’s) two weeks before Thanksgiving. We would recreate a typical Thanksgiving dinner but with a little twist. Instead of being surrounded by family, you were surrounded by friends. But like Thanksgiving, the day is filled with love, laughter and memories and is a great time to rekindle old friendships. This year marked our fourth anniversary of Friendsgiving, and like every year, it was a total success. Unlike most people, we have a professional chef within our group of friends. Alright, he may not be a professional chef, but he sure acts like it. During high school, Zach attend Berks Career and Technology Center, also known as BCTC, where he specialized in Culinary Arts. While he only finished two years of the program, Zach is convinced that he is the world’s best chef and quite often argues that. He is the biggest diva in the kitchen but also makes the best Thanksgiving meals. While Zach has his families Pennsylvania Dutch roots to thank for his immaculate meals, he also gives a lot of credit to Paula Dean. “I just love her recipes! I mean have you seen the picture of the turkey I sent you?!” Zach would announce every time someone would question, “but why Paula Dean?”
And thus, on Sunday November 15th, the fourth annual Friendsgiving was underway. While most of us don’t come early to help Zach prepare, I [unwillingly] volunteered. However, what I didn’t know is that preparation for the dinner began three days before. Zach had purchased a turkey, which he then named Jocelyn, and began thawing it. Zach placed the turkey into a Gatorade container, kind of like the ones on the sideline of football games, filled with cold water. Also, the gathering of ingredients began. We had five dishes at dinner: the Turkey, corn pudding, potato filling, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. While the turkey was already being marinated and thawed, we still had a lot of work to do in preparation of dinner. Although Zach was making dinner, everyone had to bring something along with them because nobody ever eats for free. People brought pies, pies and more pies while others brought drinks (non-alcoholic of course) and cranberries (Zach insisted that Friendsgiving wasn’t Friendsgiving without decorative cranberries).
While shopping with Zach is usually fun, grocery shopping is a complete different story. I mentioned earlier that Zach was a diva in the kitchen, while he’s even worse in a grocery store. Instead of following a list, which we had prepared before going, Zach decided to stray. “Oh! Can you imagine how good the sweet potatoes would be if we added this to them?” Zach would ask, even though I would have no idea what was going on. “Oh my God, we absolutely need these!” he would announce holding up a bouquet of flowers. What were we going to do with flowers, anyway? “Can you imagine how BEAUTIFUL the table would be if these were on it?!” Although I should have expected this kind of reaction to shopping with Zach, I never thought I’d have to do it well just getting some simple ingredients.
After forty-five minutes and forty dollars well spent, we found ourselves at Justin’s house to start preparing the meal. First things first, Justin and I were in charge of washing, drying, a peeling potatoes while Zach prepared everything else. Justin and I have never been good cooks, which is something I will happily admit. After basic preparation we are shooed out of the kitchen and only allowed back in when everything’s done and we can’t mess it up. At this point, Justin’s mom is awaiting our arrival in the living room with the Eagles game and wings. While I don’t watch football, let alone like it, I gladly accepted the wings that were waiting for us.
Justin’s mom, Lori, is an eager and vocal Eagles fan and it showed every time the Eagles did something remotely wrong (or even right) when she would scream. Every time a scream left her mouth, a frantic Zach would pop his head into the living room and give us a stern lecture of how “he cannot concentrate with all the yelling”. With his mom lecture done, he would return back to the kitchen only to show himself at the next scream. This kept happening and every time it did Justin would let out a laugh while saying, “Gosh, he’s like a little girl”. The food was finished a few hours later and was just in time for our new guests who had arrived around six o’clock.
Somewhere during all of his cooking, Zach somehow managed to break out a new tablecloth as well as Lori’s fine china and his new bouquet of flowers to create a beautifully set table. After all the guests had arrived and were sitting around the table, dinner was served. Out came Zach with the turkey followed by the potato filling and the like.
“Nobody touch the food until everybody is seated!” Zach would scream every time he saw someone go to take a bite. Of course, every time those words left Zach’s mouth, it would cause a ripple effect of sighs, grumbling, and eye rolls to spread through the table.
“Zach, you cannot put this food in front of us and not expect us to eat it!” Leah shouted from her seat.
“Seriously, Zach, I just wanna eat!” Brook whined while slumping down in her seat.
Underneath all the whining and yelling we were all extremely thankful for Zach and his cooking; however, there comes a time where you’ve waited too long to eat the food that is sitting right in front of you. Eventually dinner began and all was well in the world again. Everyone was eating contently while catching up. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to have meals with the people that were once a big part of your life.
Dinner passed smoothly with everyone contributing to the conversation which ranged from current topics of people’s lives to old memories that we all love to laugh at. We soon found ourselves clearing the dinner table of the main meal and making our way over to the desert portion of the night (which is secretly every one’s favorite). The pies were brought out along with the game boards and playing cards.
The evening passed smoothly into a night full of laughter and old memories- something each and every one of us look forward to each year. While we all may be at different places and following different paths in life, we all know that we have each other to count on… Even if it’s only for one day out of the year, it’s still a tradition that will continue until we’re old and I can guarantee everything will still be the same between us.