Seven trips to the grocery store, a menu of traditional food dishes to make in record time, last-minute home repairs and cleaning — Thanksgiving is a test of endurance. It’s also the one day of the year we gladly go to these extremes without afterthought.

As I write this, the sun won’t rise for another two hours, yet the last load of laundry is drying, so the beds will have fresh flannel sheets and the bathrooms will be stocked with fluffy clean towels. The only confirmed overnight guest this week is my daughter, but, as a former Girl Scout, I’m prepared for the unexpected.

If the power were to go out, two propane tanks sit ready for my attempt to bake a pumpkin pie and a sweet potato soufflé on the barbecue grill.

It’s sad to think the one menu item that would not be affected by a power outage is the cranberry sauce. Don’t get me wrong — I have nothing against the traditional Thanksgiving accompaniment. It’s terrific with a shot of horseradish and sour cream and spread on sandwiches brimming with leftover turkey. But honestly, it’s the trophy wife of the dinner table, invited to the feast to add much-needed color to the brown hues of turkey, stuffing and gravy.

Since my husband and I began dating, we’ve managed to attend two Thanksgiving dinners within hours of each other every year. We pace ourselves as though we’re competing in a hot dog eating contest, only the gourmet factor of Thanksgiving food increases the difficulty level. Who has ever eaten only two spoonfuls of homemade stuffing at one sitting? Or half a slice of pie?

I’ve been fasting for several days to prepare for the surge of carbs and caloric intake. In a sense, I’ve been training for today’s festivities as one would train for a marathon, only spandex is not part of my regimen. Nor is running. A brisk walk with the dog and arm lunges with the floor mop comprise my training routine. Occasionally I break a sweat vacuuming and brushing the dog vigorously, so I don’t have to repeat the vacuuming before guests arrive.

Plus, there’s always Black Friday to sweat off the damage inflicted the day before.

I’m giddy my daughter will be home from college for a few days and excited to see my brothers who live out of state. I love spending time with family, especially my siblings, during the holidays. No matter how much time passes — whether we get together every holiday or only once a year — we pick up right where we left off. We’ve matured but we haven’t grown up, particularly when we’re in a room together. We still make fun of each other, but now it's more civil. Gone are the days of teasing about someone’s choice in friends, spouses and hairstyles.

Instead, we poke fun at our aging status, inability to stay up past 10 p.m., weather-induced aches and pains and thinning hair. We've learned to avoid hot-button issues — politics, religion, sporting team alliances, best pierogi filling — to keep the peace while we're under mom’s roof.

Today’s early NFL game pits the majority of my family against one brother who insists on cheering for the division nemesis. No matter the outcome, once we toast to our blessings and dig into the feast before us, any hard feelings will be forgotten. Our conversation will turn to the weather and how our aching joints indicate a cold and snowy weekend ahead.

I guess my siblings and I have grown up, and we’ve become what we swore we wouldn’t — our parents.

Vicki Estes can be reached at