Thanksgiving Monday!

Posted By on November 19, 2012

My mom, my brothers, and me. Love–even the brother who always cried in photos. (My scanner’s not working.)

Thanksgiving means one thing to me. Family.

My brother-in-law, who’s my brother but even more, my friend, arrived this week. I love seeing him and the beloved together. They’re funny, and you can see how much they enjoy besting each other with true brotherly love. Plus, he’s a joy to my girl, and he finds joy in her, too. He’s never been with us for Thanksgiving before because he worked in retail, and you can’t get from here to where he lives after Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is amazing this year. I hope everyone is having this much fun!

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since the first one after my parents split up. That was obviously a hard time. I have a quirky family. Some good quirks. Some pretty harsh ones, but that year was one stress after another. We left my beautiful, beloved, haunts-me-even-now beach early one December and began to learn a whole new way of life.

Snow, which is unbelievably cold when you’ve lived on a beach all your life, and a new school that could hardly have been more different than St. Michael’s on the beach, and loneliness–for my father, my grandma, who’d been a mother and a friend and a teacher, and a kind hand that still lies with comfort on my shoulder now. I missed my father and my dog and the smell of our hundred-plus year-old house with no closets and a warren of rooms, and little plaster arcadian scenes on every inch of ceiling that probably taught me how to tell stories.

But–I gained another grandmother, whose hand is on my other shoulder, who taught me to embroider and sled in that crazy snow and to listen to my conscience, no matter what anyone else has ever had to say.

And I gained my cousin, Debbie, who I already loved, but who made me feel as if I belonged in Tennessee. The day we arrived at my grandmother’s house, Debbie’s parents brought her to visit. I was standing in the living room, a little nervous because everything was so strange to me, and oh lord, the grief of losing your father and your past. I remember the second Debbie walked through Grandma’s kitchen door. Smiling–really smiling–with joy because she saw me. Debbie was so shy when we were children that I was often her voice, but she was never shy with me. That day we started a conversation we will never finish. And it started with the love on my cousin-who’s-really-my-sister’s face. I may not have realized it then, because all I felt was unexpected, huge happiness, but the moment I saw her, I knew I still had a home.

The following November I gained Thanksgiving. My mother’s siblings and their families all took their special dishes and their children to Grandma’s house. We children played. (Debbie and I always ran to Grandma’s room for talk as though we’d never have a chance to talk again. Plus, Grandma had small horse figurines in her room, and we played, really carefully, with them!) The women cooked. The men talked football.

The house filled with the most delicious smells I’ll ever know. And anticipation. And the sounds of my brothers and all our male cousins (except for Debbie’s brother, who was older than the rest of us, and hung out with “the men”) running amok through Grandma’s yard.

We ate in shifts. Men first, of course. 🙂 Then the women and children. I loved my perch on the dishwasher-as-a-table. While my mom and my aunts and my grandma talked and talked and talked some more, sometimes spicy stuff, sometimes family stories. Sometimes just talk about what they’d been doing in the way of needlework or the end of the gardening for that year or just work.

Then came cleanup–and finally–the march up the beautiful, bony-treed ridge behind Grandma’s house. On a carpet of fallen leaves–purple and orange and red. Wet and dry, crushed and soft. And more conversation. Grandma, identifying a tree or a neighbor’s house. Looking out over her house–which seemed strange and new from the top of the ridge. What I wouldn’t give for one more walk up that ridge with Mom and Grandma and Debbie and my aunts and all my cousins. Except Debbie’s brother, who was watching football by then, with “the men.”

At the top, all our women might share a story about a neighbor or a friend from their own school days or a plant they’d transplanted to their garden from the woods around their own home, or from Grandma’s house. Eventually, we ran or slipped, or wandered back down the ridge to Grandma’s house, through that rustling cloud of leaves on the ground.

And we partook of dessert or maybe a second helping of dressing or Aunt Dorothy’s cole slaw. And some more talk, to the music of “the men” rooting on their football teams.

The day wound down. Grandpa held court from his recliner by the “picture” window. One of my uncles or a cousin took Grandma’s recliner beside him. The other men lined up along the red sofa and the big easy chair and the brown chair by the door.

The boys–I’m not sure where they went. I remember the dark pressing against the white valance and curtains in Grandma’s blue kitchen, the sound of my shoes on the linoleum, and the Dutch boy dancing on her white, square cookie tin. Finally, my mom gathered her empty dishes and us children, and we’d all surge out into the driveway, still getting in those last bits of urgent conversation, waving goodbye. And pile into the square sturdy Rambler with a bench seat that felt like a church pew, and head home–replete and talked out.

That’s what I bring to each Thanksgiving. The memories and the family with me and the family I miss. And all the love.

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Comments

6 Responses to “Thanksgiving Monday!”

  1. Debbie White says:

    You made me cry!!! I sure do miss the good ole days!!

  2. admin says:

    Girly, remembering that first day when I saw you made me cry, too. I hope you know how much you mean to me! We definitely need to make another one of those Thanksgivings again!

  3. Darryl says:

    That was so lovely! I miss the family thanksgivngs too.

  4. admin says:

    Hey, you! So do I! And when we manage to arrange another one, you need to bring you and yours! I miss you so much!

  5. Karen says:

    Very nice! Made me miss my own family Thanksgivings back in New England.

  6. admin says:

    I always wish the weather was a little chillier here, Karen. Maybe some snow…. 😉

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