The Tyler Morning Telegraph asked East Texans about their interesting Thanksgiving celebrations, and what they are thankful for this year.
Their stories include anecdotes from those who work serving others on the holiday — cooking for those who decide to stay out of the kitchen, tending to babies in the hospital, and even those caring for others' boarded pets; a family celebrating a 9-year-old's cancer-free diagnosis; and a soldier home from overseas. Here are the stories they shared:
COOKING FOR THE MASSES
Just this week, the executive sous chef at FRESH By Brookshire's in Tyler cooked 1,000 pounds of cranberry sauce and giblet gravy, not to mention the rest of the Thanksgiving specialties for people to serve at their own Thanksgiving meals.
“Being a production chef where we're cooking in such large volumes, it kind of takes the mystique away from it,” Guzzetta said of the Thanksgiving meal.
Still, he participates in the annual tradition, and has since he was a child growing up in an Italian-American family in New York. Guzzetta and his family — which includes wife, Carolina, and their children Luca, 3, and Daniela, who will turn 1 next month — will share the meal at someone else's house this year, which is a plus for him.
“They say hunger is the best spice,” Guzzetta said. “Me not having to cook is the best spice. I enjoy cooking. I love to cook. … But when I don't have to cook. I actually get to sit and enjoy the meal because for me the meal is the ultimate.”
This year Guzzetta's holiday will be made especially meaningful for a reason much greater than food.
Daniela has Down Syndrome and her first two months of life were pretty rough, Guzzetta said.
“It was touch and go for a while so I'm thankful that we're celebrating her birthday this year,” he said.
“We are celebrating Thanksgiving in a special way this year, at the Atlantis in the Bahamas,” Collin's father, Jimmy Boyd, said in an email from the beach. “Collin can do all the things he enjoys without any restrictions. We are truly blessed to be able to celebrate as a family with our healthy little boy.”
This week while at the Atlantis, Collin swam with the dolphins, stingrays and sharks and went parasailing.
Jimmy and his wife, Kalisha Boyd, of Tyler, decided to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving celebration this year to celebrate their son being declared cancer free on Nov. 7. Collin was diagnosed with cancer in March and went through 31 radiation treatments, eight rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries.
Collin is in the fourth grade at Owens Elementary School.
“We are thankful for so many things this year, but we are most thankful that our son, Collin, was declared cancer free,” Boyd said.
The Boyds are flying back to Tyler today in hopes of spending time with their families.
THANKFUL FOR HOME
She's stationed in Okinawa, Japan, but jumped at the opportunity this month to come home for three glorious weeks of vacation and rest.
Her leave ends Sunday and she'll soon be back overseas, serving as an administrative specialist on deployment.
Ms. Thedford deeply appreciates this special time at home and the simple pleasures it provides: family game night, home cooking and shopping with old friends.
She is the daughter of Christine Thedford and Paul Merritt, and Phil Thedford, also of Flint; and a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School.
“People need to be thankful for every day they have with family and friends,” she said. “Don't ever take it for granted because it can be gone in an instant.”
She hopes people will use their Thanksgiving holiday to reflect on the blessings in life.
“I'm thankful I was able to come home safely and spend this time with my family and friends,” she said. “I'm thankful for all the troops who are out there and not able to spend this time with their families, since they are keeping us safe.”
She plans to spend this turkey day enjoying family, food and football.
Some of her family opted out of the annual Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving game to spend more time together.
“It makes me really proud to serve,” Ms. Thedford said. “Every day they (military) inspire me to give 110 percent to make sure the job is done right and we all get to come home safely.”
said Thanksgiving Day traditions, such as turkey and visits by family, are a jailhouse tradition.
Inmates will eat a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, dressing, candied yams, green beans and a slice of pumpkin pie, he said.
Family and ministers visit during normal and holiday schedules. Visitation days rotate between women and men.
Thursdays are for female inmates and Pinkerton said Thanksgiving Day typically has especially heavy traffic because, aside from typical children, parents, siblings and grandparents, distant family members may be in town.
“We like to show inmates that you may be behind bars, but somebody still cares,” he said. “They appreciate the food and being able to see family.”
A WORKING HOLIDAY
The 54-year-old Whitehouse resident is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, so she doesn't always get the holiday off.
But she said she's pleased that she can be with babies during that time so their parents can be with their own families.
“I have always known I would … have to work most holidays, and it's not a big deal,” she said.
Her family still celebrates Thanksgiving, even if it's not on the actual day. Her husband, a Department of Public Safety trooper, will work today, and she will work this weekend.
So their family celebrated Monday by watching a movie and spending time together.
“We feel like it's important to be with family, and we're thankful to be with family and friends…” Mrs. Birt said. “You do your best (to) be with the ones that you can be with.”
She said she's also thankful for her job and that her family is all healthy.
TENDING TO ANIMALS
Ms. Grotheer and her husband, Sean, said the Thanksgiving holidays are their busiest times, along with the summer.
“When everybody else goes, we stay,” Grotheer said, adding that he and his wife usually take their vacation time at the end of September and the middle of October, which is their slowest time.
Every owner brings their own food for their pets. Sometimes that means shredded fast-food chicken, honey-cured ham and sugar cookies, Ms. Grotheer said.
On Thanksgiving Day, the two will spend the day feeding and playing with the dogs and cats in their care, then go home to eat a home cooked meal with parents and other family members.
The three kennel staffers at Bed, Bath and Bonz, a dog boarding business, were busy checking in dogs and eating a lunch of pizza their bosses ordered for them on Wednesday.
Allison Matlock, Katy Allison and Carlos Carreno say they all get along well and consider themselves to be like family.
Although they will be taking care of dogs and cats on Thanksgiving Day, they will get a chance later in the day to go to the home of their boss, Robin Sawyers, for a lunch of turkey and stuffing.
The three said that the day before Thanksgiving also is their busiest day. They will get in at 7 a.m. today to begin feeding the animals. “We all have an upbeat attitude here — it's a good thing we all get along — we make our own holidays,” Ms. Allison said.
Francisco, 8, a third-grader, said he is thankful for his friends, mother, father and cousins. Richi, 5, a Head Start student, was thankful for soup, turkey and chicken.
The cousins plan to celebrate Thanksgiving at a barbecue with their family members.
Andi Freeman, 12, of Diana, said she is thankful for her family and their support.
“They're always here for me,” the sixth-grader said.
She planned to spend Thanksgiving with her family at two locations, her house and her grandmother's house.
Her favorite part of the meal is the turkey, because it's always cooked well, she said.
She said she, her siblings and her cousins will watch football games, play Xbox and play outside.
Owens, 57, has spent 36 years serving others their Thanksgiving Day meal. He worked for Luby's Cafeteria for 24 years before opening Traditions in Tyler 13 years ago. He said when he got into the business, most people would pick up a meal to take home to the families and he has seen that grow, as well as people dining in for a no cooking or clean up holiday.
Going out for Thanksgiving allows everyone to eat something different, not just what grandma has on the table, Owens said. He expects to serve more than 2,000 guests for dine-in at Traditions by 2:30 p.m. today, and his pre-order Holiday Meals to Go already surpassed last year's orders by Tuesday.
Owens has spent years of Thanksgivings working from 5 a.m. Wednesday until about 5 p.m. Thursday, but he no longer has to spend the night there. This year he will have help from about 65-70 employees working in shifts.
After serving turkey and giblet gravy all day, Owens said, “We eat lasagna when I get home. … That's our family tradition.”
Owens said he is thankful for his family, God and his crew at Traditions that can get all of the food out to their patrons, as well as surviving the business climate.
BEING A BLESSING
“I'm grateful for my life,” she said. “I'm grateful for Jesus, who paid the ultimate price for me, for what He's doing, and what He's about to do. I'm grateful that we have the chance to be a blessing in the community.”