Our View: Thankful for traditions that made warm memories
Pushing back from table, watching family and friends gathered to feast in food and gratitude, warm thoughts of Thanksgiving traditions bring back smiles, laughs and maybe even tears.
The brown-haired boy, his bowl-cut bouncing along with a bunch of cousins headed out to Grandma’s pond — not to fish, but to test the ice beneath their tip-toeing steps — and soon after back before the wood-burning stove with cold, and wet, feet. Dozens of Hoosier aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces all share laughs at the youngsters’ expense, as they watch football, wait for the feast and bask in Grandma’s greatest gift: the love of family.
The young girls, wearing matching dresses their mother had hand-sewn — and of course their good shoes — serving up side dishes. But only after Grandpa has carved up some turkey first, do they add the sides and pass plates around the table, where a Norman Rockwell moment plays out in southern California. Fine china decorated with little yellow flowers, thumbprint Fostoria crystal goblets, and white linen table cloth and napkins, all anchored in the love of grandparents seated at either end of the table. Cleanup is conducted in the kitchen with Grandma washing every dish, pot and pan, Mama rinses, and an uncle does the drying, often flourishing the dishtowel like a matador’s cape.
It is the good fortune of three boys to have all four grandparents throughout their teenage years. They live just a 45-minute drive through a Wisconsin countryside away, a jaunt through small towns and corn fields, always with plenty of snow during the holiday — but never enough to cancel Thanksgiving dinner due to poor weather. Everyone dresses up. The men wear starched white shirts and ties, the women dresses and jewelry, and the three brothers a dress shirt and a sweater. It was wonderful and fun.
Another Thanksgiving memory is snow blocking old Highway 40 into Reno, where the boy lives, and his stepfather (a cook for a local restaurant) was told to stay home — there were no customers. Money is tight, and buying a turkey would be a burden. But a friend offers the family a free goose that he shot and has no use for. So the boy’s parents prepare the goose like it was a turkey — but this was an old, stringy bird, not very flavorful — and those at the table spit out BBs from time to time. Though not turkey, that bird will be talked for many years, and those still to come.
For many, politics always raises its head at Thanksgiving dinner, even though the family always tries to steer clear of it. A few glasses of wine or other spirits helps loosen the tongue, so certainly by the pie course politics likely will come up. It’s usually heated and hard feelings appear, but as the saying goes … you can pick your friends and your nose but you can’t pick your family. Some even vow after the arguments to never have Thanksgiving Day with the same gang, but like with childbirth, they forget it a year later and invite the same folks because they are La Familia.
Thursday was surely a doozy for many.
For most of the girl’s childhood, her family would drive from west Los Angeles out to Twentynine Palms in the desert, to her grandparents’ house, where she and her cousins enjoyed a traditional meal. Once in high school, it got more boring and ho-hum, yet when the family didn’t go anymore because the kids were away at school … well, then the girl really missed it. She has a new tradition, flying to North Carolina to see her own grandchildren the week before. Another new tradition though is not-so good, even appalling for the girl. Stores opening on Thanksgiving Day to get shoppers before Black Friday, the god of American consumerism hijacking the holiday.
The boy with cold, wet feet also has a new tradition, now that he’s several states away from Grandma’s pond. His family back home continues to gather just as Grandma would have hoped, celebrating her greatest gift. But that boy’s family now shares holiday feasts with friends who have become family.
And, though we all enjoy the great Thanksgiving traditions like breaking the wishbone and leftovers — turkey sandwiches, turkey tetrazzini, turkey soup … and cranberry sandwiches … the next day, and the next, and the next — a wise man once told that brown-haired boy and the rest of his family, “It’s not so much about what’s on your Thanksgiving table, as who is around the table with you.”
With gratitude for all of our own blessings and traditions, we hope you and yours are able to enjoy some extra time with family and friends, making more memories this Thanksgiving weekend.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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