Yesterday my sister, who lives in the Cayman Islands, and I were on the phone working out amounts of our allotted Thanksgiving contributions. She arrives tonight and her job is pies; I’m on stuffing.
“I thought I’d make three, maybe four,” I said. “Regular,” which means my Mom’s recipe with Stroehmann’s white bread and lots of butter and marjorman but no apples, “gluten-free for my guys, maybe an oyster one for Dad, and Stove Top for Nick.”
She agreed, and we moved on to how many of each pie she should make.
“There’s just the sixteen of us this year,” she told me.
Could that be right? My sister and I ticked off on our fingers, bewildered. Can our immediate family, our parents, siblings, spouses and niece/nephews, minus our Colorado brother and his brood, really only be sixteen people?
It has been nine years since my parents separated and sold the cabin in the Catskills that had always been our childhood Thanksgiving destination, a traditional feast with at least three great browned birds and as many relatives, friends, love interests, stray dorm students and pets as we could drag along—the dining room table there could comfortably seat thirty and there was always room out by the gigantic fireplace for roasting and peeling chestnuts.
(You can read more about how my perception of the meaning of Thanksgiving dinner growing up ‘the peaceful din of chaos’ made its way into my argument for why we needed to have more than two children in my article Are You Done? here)
It can be hard to let go of your origins, of what traditional used to mean. Our family has had nine years of other Thanksgivings, some of them together, sometimes in Pennsylvania, sometimes the Caribbean, my various siblings scattering to their in-laws as we married and made families, traditions of our own.
For me, this now includes a Thanksgiving gratitude tree, where I walk in the woods with my children sometime before the feast and find a suitable branch, and we write what we are grateful for on paper leaves, followed by the date, and hang them all on this branch.
Some of my favorites from the past include:
“Scooby Doo, Fred and Daphne, and Velma” – Max, 2007 (age 3)
“Thankful for trees that give us oxygen and bald eagles” -- Hayden, 2008 (age 7)
“For LIFE” – Papa Joe, 2008 (age 86)
"For my baby sister, Piper, and my suckerfish" -- Hayden, 2007 (age 5)
“Calloway’s Bar and Modern Warfare” – cousin Kian, 2009, (age 28)
“Wagons” (????) Max, 2009 (age 5)
“Hope, and the visitation of dragonflies” – Chandra, 2008, (age 34)
QUESTION: I’d love to know what Thanksgiving means to you, what traditions you love, miss or are making this year?
*Savvy readers will note that this MONDAY MUSING is showing up on a Wednesday. Sorry for the hard drive hiccup!