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November 23, 2012

For as long as I can remember my family would gather at my maternal’s grandmothers house for Thanksgiving. She lived in a big old house, which would be filled to the brim with family starting Wednesday evening after the grand children would get off of school. Originally a family of six kids, plus my grandmother blossomed to include spouses and children as the years went by. I remember the excitement at seeing cousins that lived far away, playing in the cold autumn air, my grandmother’s home was less than a block away from a large city park. We would spend hours at that place, gearing up for the feast in the later afternoon. Rising early I can remember the smells wafting to the third story loft-like room (where all the grandchildren slept). As the day worn on the kitchen increased with activity as aunts and uncles helped with various dishes. Dinner would arrive finding the kids in the kitchen and the adults gathered around the expandable large table. Grace would be said, and we would begin our feast. As we grew into an ever-increasing brood the amount of food also increased. Around the time I entered middle school we started needing two turkeys. One was made in the traditional fashion the other alternated between smoked and deep-fried. There were side dishes galore, as aged hands worked to create beautiful combinations of flavors. I can remember that there was one particular task given out each year, that acted as a rite of passage, marking the doer as mature. Each year my grandmother would spend a day or two before everyone arrived prepping her handmade pies. The task given to the chosen kid was making the homemade whipped topping to grace the delectable desserts. The first year I was deemed old enough I felt such pride as everyone took their first bites.

Friday morning would be greeted by the sound of family members arriving home from the black Friday sales, having left in the wee hours. Often snow would cover the ground as their return would mark the start of the seemingly endless task of decorating my grandmother’s house for Christmas. Breakfast finished the grandchildren would make the trek up to the third floor, where my aunts would be busy emptying the storage closet filled with decorations. As the countless trips up and down took place some of my other aunts would busy themselves with the decoration on the main floor. Garland would cover the entryways of the various rooms. Lights peeking out, twinkling once evening took hold. In the space a few hours the house would be transformed, at which time we would head out to pick out a tree for the living room. As the troop loaded into the vehicles, the festive mood continued. After finding the perfect tree, we would return home. Trimming would begin and as the fireplace filled the room with warmth, the scent of pine would fill it. We would hang the ornaments and my aunts and uncles would mention some of their favorites. There were a variety of them, some reaching far back into their childhood, crafts cherished through all these years. The star would be placed and as evening began descending on the small town, the lights began to glow. The Christmas season began on that day.

It’s been almost ten years since my grandmother has moved from her house into an apartment. Gone are the days when we would all cram together in the old house. A fire glowing as we settled in for a movie, the snores of sleeping children filling my ears as I struggled to stay awake. The sounds of adults drinking and playing cards (pinochle) at the old expandable table, the floor boards creaking as the children snuck around for another slice of pie.  Thanksgiving has been moved to a few different houses since then, and while we still gather it’s not the same. The attendance varies from year to year. As I have gotten older I have started to realize all that my memories might be a bit skewed. I block out the fights, the inevitable tiffs and hurt feelings that arise from a crowd so large. I block out the hangovers and the distance and the various other things that led my husband and I to opt out of attending in favor of a smaller dinner with friends. There were no children running around, dinner was prepared by only a few hands and as the evening drew to a close we all headed out for our own homes. Thankful for another year. There was no snow on the ground as my husband and I pulled into our spot. Our home is not filled to the brim with people and we have no leftovers. Though as Friday dawns and I rise from my bed, we will begin the decoration of the house for Christmas season, the boxes are few and the space is small. As I test the lights to make sure they work, and hang the ornaments on the fake tree; my Christmas season will begin and I will remember that even though life goes on and things change, there is something to be said about keeping some traditions alive.


From → Writing

One Comment
  1. You paint such a warm, lovely picture. Although that tradition has changed, there’s no reason to believe the new ones you build over the next couple years won’t be just as treasured. 🙂

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