I love traditions.
But the truth is, my adult life has taken me so far away from my family, that maintaining our traditions has been difficult at best. My family seems to be the catch-as-catch-can variety: my sisters and their spouses are usually working on major holidays (please be thankful for your law enforcement officers), so we’ve held Thanksgiving dinners days, and sometimes weeks, after the fact. Christmas sometimes happens after the New Year, and birthdays are mostly relegated to Skype sessions where you get to watch your nephews open the presents that you shipped to them via UPS.
Even when I was a kid, distance separated my immediate family from my mom’s side of the family. My grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles were a three-hour ride north on the NYS Thruway. But we made the trip often.
On Thanksgiving, Mom and my sisters and I would pile into the car and head up to my grandparents’ house Albany (Dad very rarely joined us; he’s a dairy farmer and his work duties kept him home. A post for another time). The celebrations there usually involved a lot of yelling (Grandpa was quite a yeller), cousins screaming, laughing and running around the house, too many people crowded around a table in the tiny kitchen, Grandma leaving some side dish either in the microwave or in a pan on the stove, people talking over each other, food getting spilled on someone, not enough peas to go around (for some reason Grandma opened only one can of Le Sueur peas for 20 people), everyone asking for a flavor of pie that Grandma didn’t have. It was great.
Christmas was an exercise in cramming as much gift-opening as we could into one day. It started bright and early on Christmas Day, with my sister and I (I have two sisters, but the youngest is much younger than I am, and as such does not figure into my early childhood) waking up before dawn to see what Santa brought us. Our bleary-eyed parents consumed large quantities of coffee while Leanne and I feverishly unwrapped pajamas, pink boomboxes, braided headbands, hand-held arcade games, LifeSavers Storybooks, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and whatever else was hot that Christmas season (it was the 80’s – the best time to be a kid). Then we’d head over to grandparents’ house just up the road (Dad’s parents) and open the presents waiting for us there. Those presents were less exciting, and usually consisted of clothes that were the wrong size, maybe some pajamas, and some other stuff I don’t really remember. Though, I do remember one year my Grandma bought me this purple velour jogging suit that was THE BOMB. I’m not even kidding. I loved that thing. Sorry, no pictures.
After that, Mom piled the two of us in the car (after yelling at us that we could only bring ONE NEW TOY EACH with us) and we drove up to Albany to enjoy Christmas of Chaos with that side of the family. The day was a repeat of Thanksgiving – yelling, screaming, eating – with the added bonus of opening gifts. It was a lot of fun, but Leanne and I could hardly wait to get back home and play with the new toys that Mom didn’t let us bring to Albany. Man, she was MEAN. Did I ever tell you about the toys she bought us but never let us play with? That’s a story for my Christmas post.
Anyway, my point is that we don’t really have any traditions anymore. Nothing is consistent. Sometimes we make it home, sometimes we don’t. I really miss having something predictable (even if it’s insane) to look forward to.
For a few years, before we moved to Ohio, Bob and I would have my family over for Thanksgiving dinner on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was great – a houseful of people laughing and enjoying each other’s company, plus got to cook a mess of food and share it. There’s practically nothing I love more than that. Even when my brother-in-law rearranges all of the labels I carefully placed in my serving dishes so I know what goes where, and even when my *other* brother-in-law looks at my dish of cinnamon-sugar butter and shouts, “Why is there cat food on the table?” Even then.
But, the last three Thanksgivings Bob and I have had dinner at home by ourselves. It’s nice, but it’s not the raucous holiday of my memories. I hope I can find a way to bring a little more chaos back into Thanksgiving. It’s the missing ingredient.
Wow, this post got away from me. I wanted to post something positive, but I just made myself sad.
Anyway, I hope your Thanksgiving Day is wonderful – filled with food, family, and whatever traditions you hold dear. Me? I’ll be eating turkey, drinking a bottle of Gewürztraminer, and binge-watching Once Upon a Time. I guess you could say I’m starting a new tradition.
Which seems a little better than this: