I am not a sentimental person. I didn’t keep any little relics of first dates or locks of hair from my baby’s first haircut. I don’t often cry at sad movies (unless a dog dies or something-I said I’m not sentimental, I didn’t say I was dead inside!) I blame my lack of sentiment on my horrible memory.
My memories of childhood are mostly reserved to those times that someone thought to snap a picture so that I’ve been able to look back and remember the event visually. I don’t know what it is but I suffer from a severe case of C.R.S. (Can’t Remember S…anything!) So when my fellow bloggers wrote about Nostalgia and Holiday Traditions and Promises, it got me thinking, really thinking. What memories of my own upbringing and traditions am I going to share with my daughter? Turns out, I didn’t have to look far to come up with a good one.
Thanksgiving was a holiday in my family that you couldn’t forget even if you wanted to. Every year, my family would gather at my grandmother’s house in Deep River. I loved this day because, not only did I get to see some of my favorite aunts and uncles, I got to see cousins that were my age and it was a free for all of eating and playing in my Gram’s huge yard and her great big house. I always ended up with black olives on each finger! When we sat down for the meal, grownups at the big table, kids at the kid’s table at the end, the discussion invariably moved towards the latest TV shows we were all watching. The adults compared notes on LA Law or Hill Street Blues, and the kids would try to stick their two cents in too; everyone talking all at the same time, trying to be heard.
After dinner, the women would clear the table and clean up; the men would start their football/turkey induced coma time. The kids would play rock band in the basement. (We literally pretended we were a rock band. No video games!) That didn’t last long because someone always suggested that Gram needed help raking the leaves. We would all end up outside raking and playing and laughing. Then it was time for pie. My grandmother sure knew how to make a pie.
When I got married, my husband and I split this holiday up, taking turns alternating one year at his family, one year at my family. We had to do this because Thanksgiving was my mother in laws favorite holiday and she hosted her whole clan, much like my Grandmother. I remember my first Thanksgiving spent away from my family. I called to say hello and didn’t make it through the conversation without bursting into tears.
These days many things have changed. My Gram and my mother in law have since passed on, and my family has drifted apart on this and most of the other holidays. Now that I have my own home and a daughter, my husband and I volunteer to host Thanksgiving at our house to keep the tradition alive. The guest list is a mix of his family and mine now. All together, for better or for worse.
When we first declared that we would host the family thanksgiving, we made it clear to our guests that the event was strictly B.Y.O.T (bring your own turkey) because we are vegetarians. We were met with a bit of skepticism to say the least as we also told people we would be seating everyone in our garage…in November.
My mother in law used to run Thanksgiving with military precision and that left big shoes to fill. Starting in October we get to work preparing our house and garage to be a one of a kind, holiday wonderland. We clean our house like it has never been cleaned before. The garage is practically emptied, white lights are strung on the ceiling and through the garage door rails, the kerosene heater is ready and fall foliage decorations are covering what can’t be removed from the garage (case of motor oil, anyone?) Tables and chairs are configured miraculously to fit all 40 of us.
This year is the second year without my mother in law. It was her favorite holiday because she loved to be the one to get her family together. We are doing our best to make it the most memorable, warm and fun holiday that we can. As I look back and look ahead to this year, I’m proud that I am creating these memories for my daughter; memories of cousins and fun, and family and pie. I’ll be sure to take some pictures though, just in case.