By Mary L. Flett, Ph.D. November 26, 2017
My Thanksgivings have become smaller affairs as I age. In my childhood, gatherings took place at my maternal grandmother’s home. Then at my mother’s. Then at my cousin’s. Each move reflected a change in levels of participation, mostly due to the death of family members, or a physical move. But most of all, the changes reflected the handing down of the legacy from one generation to the next.
When I moved away from home, I did my best to re-capture the feelings of shared laughter, good food and connection. Initially I did this with the “Orphan’s Thanksgiving” — hosting friends whose families were far away or who preferred the company of others. We gathered, ate very well, and enjoyed each other’s company.
After I was married, I attempted to merge the traditions of my family with my husband’s family with varying success and additions and substitutions of favorites from both sides. After my husband’s children moved away, we reverted to prepared foods from a local store with the handed-down family additions to complement the ready-made.
Since my husband died, I have found myself spending more time with the memories rather than with the traditions. I delight in the memories of his making stuffing for the turkey. This was a day-long process which left the turkey stuffed and the kitchen a mess. But everyone enjoyed the stuffing!
And how can I forget my cousin making his famous breaded oysters side dish? Thousands of calories from the butter and cream, all designed to cover the taste of the oysters.
I laugh at the happy memories of sitting at the ‘kiddy table’ and finally making it to the adult table and finding out that even adults like eating black olives. I recall with great pride some of the elegant tables that I set over the years, with a variety of center pieces including a full-size turkey made of corn shocks.
And sharing those intimate moments of contentment in hand washing the ‘special’ china and silver, putting each away and just sitting down, exhausted and satisfied, knowing that all was well-received and enjoyed.
This year there was much to be grateful for. I live in Wine Country where we experienced devastating wildfires just weeks before Thanksgiving. Our communities came together to celebrate so much more than ‘Turkey and Fixin’s’. Recognition of the fragility of life along with the resilience of both the people and the land made this a memorable celebration.
My gratitude extends to being able to share my thoughts and ideas with you. My wish is that we all take some time to pause and remember our legacies and traditions, recall our loved ones who are no longer with us, and celebrate the bounty of the many harvests we are privy to on a daily basis.
With these as our foundation, we can look forward to the days to come.