Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Across the Years

As Thanksgiving’s drawn closer and arrived, I’ve been bracing myself for this year’s festivities and thinking of celebrations in years past.

Southern Hospitality

When my sister Mary and I were little, our family would drive from Rowlett, Texas to Houston to have a feast with my dad’s brother Rich, our aunt Linda, and our cousins. The house was full of people and food, talking, playing, and laughing.  These are the earliest memories I have of huge family gatherings at holiday time.

Travel Troubles: Black Ice & A Potty Chair

I can remember one year when we drove up to Vestal, New York to spend Thanksgiving with my dad’s brother Dave, Aunt Florence, and our cousins: Eric and Annelisa. We were stuck on the highway for hours when a tractor-trailer jack-knifed when it hit black ice. It was literally a parking lot. People turned their cars off and got out. Those in RVs started offering people coffee and things. After a while, several people could be seen walking up to the woods to go to the bathroom. I really had to go, but I wasn’t about to walk up the snowy hill and pop a squat in some random woods. As luck would have it, we drove two cars up, and since Theresa was just a toddler and in the process of potty training, we had her little potty chair.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I made everyone else get in one car while my mom helped me put up clothes and things, so no one could see in the windows. Everyone thought it was hilarious that I used Theresa’s little potty chair. It’s a good thing I went when I did, because when we got to the next rest stop the lines at every bathroom, especially the ladies’ rooms, were out the door, down the hall, and around the outside of the building. The traffic was so bad, we ended up having to turn around and spend the night at a hotel in Pennsylvania, then make the rest of the trip in the morning. We enjoyed our time with family and the food was delicious once we finally got to their house.

Evidence of Grandma's Love

A couple years we had my aunt Carol and cousins come to our house for Thanksgiving. We kept up the family tradition of playing lots of card games, many of which our grandmother taught us. One year in particular, we had a great time sliding across the kitchen and dining room into walls, furniture, and each other wearing the pairs of slippers Grandma had knit each of us.  (I once attempted to knit a pair of slippers under my grandmother's tutelage.  One came out fine, and the other looked more pointy, like an elf shoe.)  I know one of my sisters still has a pair of slippers my grandma knit her.  I also have a pair left of the ones she made with a blend of her favorite colors in one yarn: turquoise, orange, and brown.

Americans in Paris

The farthest I’ve ever been away from home at Thanksgiving was my junior year of college when I was studying abroad in Paris. It felt so strange to be in a city that knew nothing of the fanfare and food we have here. We Americans in Paris celebrated the holiday together at a restaurant. The director of the Hollins Abroad Program in Paris and one of our professors joined us at a very large table for a big meal that somewhat resembled traditional Thanksgiving fare. Celebrating an American holiday in a big group at a French restaurant felt a bit surreal, but it was fun.

Just Add Another Table

Starting when I was in high school, my mom’s best friend Renee and her family invited us over for their Thanksgiving feasts for several years in a row. We loved being included in their large gathering of family, friends, food, and football. We enjoyed lots of laughter and a variety of dishes ranging from the traditional to the more experimental, though yummy nonetheless. One year, my sister Mary and now brother-in-law Jordan announced their engagement at the much-loved Thanksgiving feast.
More recently, my mom’s brother Rob, our aunt, and our cousins have come to my mom’s house for Thanksgiving. In addition to tons of food, we honored our family roots and played lots of card games: Spoons (which got rather intense and even somewhat physical at times), Quibbler, Apples to Apples, etc.

Who Isn't Here This Year?

In 2009, we had our Thanksgiving feast at my mom’s house. I’d been bracing myself for the event, not just because of our occasional holiday mishaps, but because that would be our first major holiday since my dad passed. I know he was there with us. I know we all were missing him. At least that year, he no longer had to worry about how long his oxygen tank would last, if his back will hold up, and/or if he’d feel well enough to join us.

Friends Early Thanksgiving Feast 

A couple Kevin and I are friends with began a tradition a while back of having a couple family members and a number of friends, who have become a second family, over for a full-scale Thanksgiving feast at their place.  Kevin and I enjoyed this fabulous tradition again this year.  We knew we would since it's always been a blast in years’ past.  Good food, good friends, great memories, abundant blessings: who could ask for anything more?  Of course last Saturday afternoon, I forgot to bring the only thing that could possibly have added to the amazing spread and beautiful decorating-my camera to capture it all digitally.  Ah well, we got a couple shots with a 5-megapixel camera.

Here and Now

This will be our first Thanksgiving since my maternal grandmother passed away.  A number of our family and friends have also lost loved ones this past year, and will, no doubt, be thinking of who was there last year who is only there in spirit this November.

Last year we gathered at my sister and brother-in-law's home for Thanksgiving.  The plans are the same for this year, especially since their son is very active, mobile, and very intelligent (curious & into everything)!  My mom's in charge of the turkey and her delectable homemade apple pie this year.  Kevin and I are bringing the green bean casserole and the crescent rolls.

I'm looking forward to seeing my youngest sister who is home for a very short time before heading to Zambia and Zimbabwe for the month of December.  For the first time in the history of our family, we are going to be decorating the family Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.    

Normally, I would be opposed to decorating the Christmas tree so early, even before the first Sunday of Advent, but I'm willing to bend our hard-won traditions so that all of us are present for the trimming of the tree, though only a few of us ever seem to put the decorations on it.  (It's an artificial tree, and here's why it's got to be.)


I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving! Please say an extra prayer for those who are suffering in mind, body, and/or spirit this holiday season and for the many people who are missing someone dear to them.

Lord, thank You for the abundant blessings You give each of us. Thank you for the gifts of faith, family, friends, food, love, laughter, peace, and joy! Amen.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...