For about a decade, we’ve been hearing about the Thanksgiving dinner at our friends Debbie and Doug Deems. If you’ve lived in Pasadena a while, perhaps you’ve heard of it, too—or even been invited. They have a tendency to invite all their friends; the attendance of family is a given.
Last year the Deemses sat 117 for dinner. This year, owing to the nerve of a nephew who chose the weekend after Thanksgiving to get married in Orange County, it was looking like it would be down, because family who had to travel a distance for the wedding couldn’t make the trip twice in a week. “We’re only having 75,” sighed Debbie a couple of weeks ago. But two days before the feast, the head count was up to 100.
Debbie is the youngest of ten McConville siblings (half born in Ireland, half here in Los Angeles), and Doug is the youngest of six. Fortunately for their families, they both love to entertain and have the perfect big old house (and double lot) in Pasadena’s Washington Square neighborhood. Some years back, they heard about a church that was going out of business (it happens), and they bought up all the chairs, tables, coffee urns and serving pieces from the parish hall. They outgrew the inside of their house years ago and had to move to the back yard, which they tent for the occasion.
Lots of people bring contributions, especially Doug’s siblings, who love good food and wine; also highly anticipated are the tamales made by Debbie’s sister’s Puerto Rican in-laws. Doug and Debbie handle most of the main courses. What does it take to roast five turkeys and 30 pounds of prime rib? Many ovens, borrowed from neighbors up and down the street. Oh yeah, and Doug also grills three legs of lamb, in honor of his Greek heritage.
The best part of the celebration, says Debbie, is when everyone sits down to eat: They all hold hands and do a count-off. Last year, after the count-off hit the record high of 117, the oldest matriarch present, one Mrs. Colon, said a lavish old-school grace. Then the eldest patriarch, Martin O’Sullivan, an Irish immigrant who raised his six kids across the street from the ten McConville kids, stood up and sang “Danny Boy.” Oh yes, life is good over on Palm Terrace.