This time of year, we hear a lot about holiday traditions. Families are so vastly different, so it is expected that traditions are as well.
Some of us reminisce about childhood memories of always going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. We recall many of those trips – even if they were just across town – the food, the activities, and that stuffed drowsy feeling after we feasted.
My family generally ate too much so we’d sometimes play football in the street to feel better.
In some families, there might have been particular dishes that various aunts or cousins or sisters prepared every year, and they weren’t allowed to come to dinner without it.
Or maybe Uncle Ben was awarded the honors of always carving the turkey after Grandpa died.
My dad wouldn’t let anyone touch his electric knife. And Mom made every single dish. (Although, after a former sister-in-law discovered and brought sweet potato soufflé, it was expected every year.)
While some families simply arrived, ate, took a nap and left the gathering place, our family spent the day at mom and dad’s. My parents always had a full house – with six children, random numbers of spouses and six to nine grands.
Now grown and married with children, our sibling traditions barely reflect the traditions with which we were raised. Two of us don’t even eat turkey anymore.
One sister might host and prepare all the food for her children, grands and great-grands. Or either she and her husband go camping on the river.
Another, now single, either joins up with another sibling or goes to a single friend’s house to watch football.
The middle sister goes wherever one of her children invites her – and someone always does, or else she will invite herself.
Our brother winds up staying home and having friends over, or at his in-laws home in the boonies of Alabama.
My little family seems to alternate (more accurately, flip-flop) from one potential custom to another. Let’s stay home! OK. Let’s rent a house on the lake! OK. No, let’s rent a house and invite the others. OK. Let’s go to your mom’s for the whole weekend. OK. Let’s go my mom’s for the day. OK.
One year we got a little crazy, ditched both our families and drove to Florida to spend the weekend with friends who had an indoor pool.
If we had gone to my parents’ house that year, I probably would have whooped it up with my younger brother. He died a week later.
For the next few years, we had Thanksgiving at a sister’s house because Mom and Dad had moved into assisted living. Four years after my brother’s passing, Mom died of Alzheimer’s Disease the week after Thanksgiving.
Another year, we invited my dad and sister to go to the lake with us. The owner of the house told us the week before that her stove didn’t work.
We made do, and everything was grand. We ate biscuits cooked on a grill in an iron skillet. Dad learned to drive a boat. He died a week later.
One might think Thanksgiving is now a sad or somber time for our family, but that is not the case. We five surviving siblings share an attitude of gratitude that was ingrained in us from the time we were toddlers and was strengthened through our losses.
This season, no matter what, let’s all focus on the many reasons we have to be grateful. And while we’re at it, let’s maintain an attitude of gratitude year-round.