Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. No gifts to buy or decorations to put up – unless you count the pumpkins and cornucopia table topper. Just lots and lots of family, good times and good food. I come from a very large family on my mother’s side and when I was growing up we would pack my grandparent’s small house, sometimes 50 deep on Thanksgiving Day. There would be aunts, uncles, cousins, friends of cousins, friends of friends who may have known some cousins. It seemed like everyone made it by the house to have some of my grandmother’s cooking on Thanksgiving. My grandmother, Leora, was very well-known in my hometown. She was active in her church and community, a beloved mother and grandmother and she could cook. Boy, could she cook! Her dinner rolls melted in your mouth. Really, I do not exaggerate. My love for cooking comes naturally, although I can not replicate those rolls.
As much as I looked forward to Thanksgiving dinner, what I really looked forward to was spending time with my family. I didn’t see some of my cousins the entire year between Thanksgivings, so coming home was important for a lot of reasons. Sure, I loved the familiarity that comes with growing up with siblings and cousins, but I’m finding that it also provided me an anchor or a touchstone, if you will. Somewhere that everyone knew me and I always felt safe. I could be myself and regroup.
As I got older, my grandmother got too old to continue cooking at that intensity and the gatherings became smaller. Yet, I still loved them and looked forward to it all year because I was with people with whom I shared a history. I’m all grown up now with a family of my own and I’m thousands of miles from home and family. My grandparents are long since deceased, as is my dad and a couple of aunts and an uncle. My mother is in the late stage of Alzheimer’s and I haven’t seen some of my cousins in years. I miss them all. I’m hanging on to those fond memories of Thanksgivings gone by and my siblings and I look forward to any chance to be together, no matter what the holiday. Although we are scattered about, we are now each other’s anchor. The people that provide a dose of old school reality for one another. My Thanksgivings are a bit different now, not nearly as many people, but those that are here are precious to me. We are starting our own traditions and sharing our table with new friends that we’ve met a long the way. So, as this Thanksgiving approaches and I think about my menu and my guests, it is still my favorite of holidays. It is stripped down and lacking in retail fanfare, although I’m sure that will change in years to come. It is quite simply about loving and enjoying those people who you share your life with. Who knows, maybe this year I’ll finally get my grandmother’s rolls to taste just like hers…well, close enough.