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Counting Her Blessings

continued...

This year, Thanksgiving dinner is due to be at her house, the menu pretty much what it was when she was a girl. "My mom was a great cook. She believed in different china for every occasion. She'd be up really early preparing, with Daddy helping out, then we kids would get up around 8 and help. My dad's family would come, there was always touch football, and we'd watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade." (Vieira is expecting to host that very parade, for the second time, with Matt Lauer and Al Roker. "It's not mandatory," she says, "but I had such a great time last year!")

Turkey was the headliner at a Vieira Thanksgiving, of course. "My mom made a great stuffing and her gravy was the best. There were mashed potatoes and squash and cranberry sauce, the jellied and the other kind. We had yams, sometimes string beans, sometimes fresh peas. She made Portuguese sweet bread, which takes lots of time and which I never get exactly right, and she made a kale soup I don't even attempt. Rolls. Pumpkin and apple pie." One of Vieira's biggest regrets, she says, is that her mom's apple pie recipe got wet. "Now I can't read it — and she never measured anything. Gabe is the cook in our house. He always makes pumpkin pie."

The worst Thanksgiving? "We went to Richard's sister's house in Boston, and Gabe, who was 7, split open his knee playing soccer. I was so freaked out. I started taking pictures, just to take his mind off it. He ended up writing a story about it called ‘16 Stitches' and showing the pictures in class. That was one of the first times I thought, Something bad could happen. I'd never had a situation like that with one of the kids."

Appearing at Vieira's celebration this Thanksgiving, as they have for years, will be wooden figures, Pilgrims and Native Americans, that were a gift from her mother. "She gave them to me after we moved into our first home. Every year now, I put them on the table." Over time, she's added other decorations. "I can't help myself. My husband says, ‘Oh, please — not another turkey!'" She spreads these ornaments around the house for the holiday. "And our guests — family and dear friends — usually spend the night, so I'll decorate the table for breakfast the next morning."

I'm picturing the Vieira-Cohen circle, gathering, along with its four-legged members — Jasper, "who would carry the two cats around in his mouth when they were small," and those cats, trying to fill the pawsteps of the beloved Spike, who died in December about 10 years ago. "I really lost it over Spike. She meant a lot to our family."

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