It’s an idea we all find ourselves coming back to this time of year. Be it falling into the comfort and warmth of old traditions or seeking joy in starting new ones, we all crave the same thing: something to celebrate.
I find it intriguing the way years come and go, how some holidays are busy and exuberant and bouncing with life while, in other years, they are quiet and mellow, low-key. One only has to map the ups and downs of life through a single holiday to see how time works: how people come and go, how places transform, how we, ourselves, grow up.
My strongest Thanksgiving memories will always center around my Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Wyoming, the place where, for so long, Thanksgiving took place with no questions asked. I write about it in Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood, this way:
“Thanksgiving has happened at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s every year for as long as I can remember. The tradition runs so long and deep that no one questions it, even with the family tensions that ripple quietly just beneath the surface: Grandpa’s reckless ways and Grandma’s bitterness – driven, I think, by loneliness – the way he and she seem to like each other less every year, the fact that neither one of them has ever shown up for a school play or a band concert.
Grandma and Grandpa sit at opposite ends of the table, paying no attention to one another, while my parents and I and my great uncle John fill the spaces between them. I scoop up big helpings of my mom’s turkey and her Swedish corn pudding. I pass on Grandma’s mashed potatoes and gravy because the gravy is an awful brown, and like every other year, I fear she has salted it with a rabbit carcass. She served fried rabbit on the first Thanksgiving my mom spent with them – no turkey. Mom, a wholesome girl from the Midwest, cried.”
The memories are rich, but so, too, is the story.
This is a story of tradition. What is yours?
Later on in this piece, I share what still hangs on as one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories:
“A cozy quiet hangs in the Thanksgiving afternoon: the ancient dishwasher hums through its cycle, the coffee percolator brews weak Folgers coffee for my mom. Soon, my grandmother will call for a game of hearts and we will gather around the Formica table, pie in hand, for a long game of steering clear of the Old Biddy.”
This Thanksgiving, we will celebrate in a new way, with a family that is not ours in a state where our roots are only temporary. It will be my oldest son’s fourth Thanksgiving, my youngest son’s first. Still, I will make Mom’s Swedish corn pudding in the CorningWare dish. I will bring it to the house we have visited only a few times, an act of both sharing an old tradition with new friends and hanging on to something familiar for the holiday. Will we eat cranberries out of the can? Will there be sweet potatoes? A card game after the meal?
I don’t know. But I do know there is plenty to celebrate, from the warm memories of the past and the people who are no longer with us to the new friends we’ve made, the new life we’ve created and the new traditions that will blossom from it.
This holiday season, I encourage you to seek the story in tradition, whatever that means for you.