Nov. 20, 2012 — As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded of all the precious Thanksgivings passed. I know many of the old practices and traditions will fade into memory and new ones will replace them as we hurtle around the sun, the days turn into years and all those years become decades much too quickly.
At 62, I see Thanksgiving much differently than I did as a child. Back then it was simply a time to feast almost to the point of sickness — a time to enjoy every last bite of turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams and rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie I could swallow. After dinner all I could do was roll around the couch and moan.
One of my oldest Thanksgiving memories is spending the day at my grandmother’s house after the family moved from Chicago to San Diego in the late 1950s when my dad was sick. Despite his poor heath, Grandma was so happy to have her son home for the holiday. She proudly served us dinner on her finest, turn-of-the century China.
After my dad died in 1960 and my grandmother died in 1961, my mother remarried, and we moved to Fresno. Sure enough, that old set of dishes came right along with us, and every Thanksgiving and Christmas mom would bring out grandma’s plates and serve the best turkey or ham I’ve ever eaten. I mean, no one can cook as good as mom, right?
We’d all have to be so careful because they were old and fragile and impossible to replace if we broke one. And when one would fall and shatter or suffer a chip in a sink full of soapy water, that moment instantly became a time of great remorse.
Sadly, over the years my Thanksgivings gradually changed. After all, the kids grew up and moved away, my mom and step dad sold the nine-bedroom family compound near downtown Fresno in favor of smaller digs in the suburbs. With a pool. Grandma’s China made that move, too, but I don’t think the whole family ever came together again as we had in the old days. Someone was always missing. Sometimes it was me.
When my mother died in the 1980s, my brother inherited grandma’s China, and it passed from my life, although I did spend one Thanksgiving with my brother and his family a few years back, and boy, did we pile the food on those old plates once again!
Here in Susanville, I’ve started a new Thanksgiving tradition. A couple of families in our group of friends lost their mothers around the same time, so now we spend the holidays together every year. They cook a turkey, we bake a ham and a dozen or so of us gather for a little Thanksgiving cheer. At Christmas the same mob gathers for a prime rib feast. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate the holidays with those we love.
This year I’m going to pause and offer a little prayer of thanks for my departed loved ones who shared themselves with me on this day. Most of the family elders of my youth are gone. It’s hard for me to imagine or even comprehend, but I guess I’m rapidly becoming one of those old folks myself! I’m going to offer another prayer of thanks for all my family members, friends and acquaintances who can’t share this festive occasion with me this year. And as long as I’m in a kind and generous mood, I’ll offer another prayer for those sharing the holiday with me this year.
I know. It will be hard for me, but I promise I’ll try to have a great day and leave my grumpy old curmudgeon self behind this Thanksgiving and drown all my sorrows in steaming mashed potatoes and gravy.
Let me wish each and every one of you a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving. May today’s memories last a lifetime.
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