Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. We alternate between families on the holiday, one year visiting my wife’s parents, the next staying and visiting mine. This year we are staying, and I am working a C-line. The holiday pay simply couldn’t be passed up.
Some of my fondest memories as a kid are going to my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving. The family that gathered there was so numerous that her little house was always hot, noisy, and smelling of some amazing things. Ante pasta salad was placed out and picked at all day long. Bread dips, crackers, cheese, and a hundred other morsels that made it a wonder anyone could eat dinner at all.
We used to have to bring in tables from the garage to accommodate the number of people there. Turkey had to be piled high on two plates, one for each end of the line of tables. Red cabbage, cooked in red wine sat in massive bowls, to be mostly empty by the time dinner was over. Turnips, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, string beans, rolls, candied sweet potatoes, baked and spiced potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy…the ancient tables used to groan under the weight.
Dinner would end, and my uncles and cousins would sit back and watch football. The women would drink wine and converse in the kitchen over the cleanup. The kids, well, we would amuse ourselves as best we could in the tiny little house.
Seemingly far too soon after eating dinner, out came the desserts. Apple pie, pumpkin pie, and the favorite…blackberry pie, the berries we had struggled to pick on wild bushes all summer long and have frozen until this very day. That pie was always worth every scratch and scrape from the blackberry brambles that grew next to my grandmother’s house.
We would all waddle out of that house at the end of the night, happy, heavy, and more than a little sleepy. I don’t remember the drives home, because I was usually asleep the minute we got in the car.
Things have changed drastically now.
My grandmother lives with an aunt. The house itself, which used to be bulging with people on Thanksgiving, now sits completely empty but for a few days a year when they come visit. Various fractious events have happened, and many of the people I used to look forward to seeing on Thanksgiving way back when don’t even talk to each other anymore. The kids…well, we’ve all grown up, most of us have kids of our own. Even the beloved blackberry bushes are gone. Cut down to make way for a driveway to a small development, or overshadowed and choked off by pine trees which were mere shrubs when I was a kid.
I don’t really lament the loss of those days though, even if the circumstances behind that loss are a bit sad.
Truthfully, since I love the holiday so much, I now have the chance to share it in my own way with my kids. We’ve begun to create our own memories, ones that are fast replacing the sepia-toned snapshots in my mind’s eye which are all that remain of yesteryear.
The changed circumstances surrounding the holiday are not to be sad about, but looked forward to. Nothing stays the same. People change, grow, grow apart, die, or move on. Even family. Especially family, as the young grow up and the old grow older.
So, while I would be lying if I tell you I won’t drive past my grandmother’s empty house while I am on patrol that night, and sigh just a little bit when I remember those amazing days…I am also looking forward to the new days in the hopes that some day, to my boys, THESE will be times they remember with the fondness of the ones I have in my mind.
And here is my wish to all of you who have taken the time to read this blog of mine in the last near-year which I’ve been writing it:
Make memories next week. If you have children, make it something they can remember later on, something they can look back on in twenty years and smile about. If you don’t have children, continue to make Thanksgiving something YOU can look back on and remember with fondness.
It is easy to get caught up in the stress and hustle of the holiday season, with Thanksgiving being the forerunner to a few weeks of absolute chaos. I won’t pretend that I don’t get stressed out, anxious, and downright grinchy at times. But even if I do, I try to set back and enjoy the time I have with the people I have. In the end, no matter what else happens, that’s the point isn’t it?
If you’re traveling next week, do it safely, and every one of you needs to have one hell of a Thanksgiving Holiday.