Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgivings the way they used to be

One day I loved so much was Thanksgiving, even better than Christmas at times. From a child's view that is. Now, I love all the holidays just the same.

Thanksgiving was the day that all my family from Georgia, great aunts, great uncles, and cousins came to visit. Often times my mom's siblings one and/or the other would grace us with their presents. Throughout the years, other relatives from Florida or other parts of North Carolina would come. Everybody knew that we would all get together on that particular day at a specific (never changing) location once for day of food and fun with the family.

The food was absolutely amazing. Several tables in MY church's fellowship hall were covered with all kinds of food. I had many cousins just a little older than me that were a lot of fun to play with, well, when we were younger we played. When we got older, since 3 that were the closest to me were boys, there was a time we didn't have anything in common. I guess I was around middle school age. Surrounded by family but still feeling alone. That's actually the story of my life, surrounded by people, but feeling alone. Ok, this isn't supposed to be sad, it's supposed to be happy, so let me, back up to the FUN ones during childhood.

After we stuffed our bellies, played outside, played a special Thanksgiving Bingo, took many pictures of each individual family and all the cousins, the kids made Christmas countdown calenders with a piece of candy taped to each day, we called it a day. Actually I left one big thing out, Aunt Joann. She would always never fail, lecture all of how important family is, and tell us younger ones how important it is to be close knit with each other. She would always end up crying and talking through the tears and she wasn't finished until at least half the family was crying with her. Then, we would sort of called it a day. We gathered everything up and head to my great grandma's house. It was everybody else's grandma, but only step grandma. She was married into the family, but then widowed, so she was still in the family and the only grandma many knew. We would go to her house and rake the leaves into a big huge pile by the road so the city could pick them up. Us kids went out back to swing on a rope swing. There were 2 pieces of rope with a board between them, as the seat. The swing didn't go as high as a thrill seeker such as myself would hope it would. But, with the cousins there, I got more than my thrill. I sat on that huge wodden swing, and they twisted those 2 ropes together and bam, let go. That was so much fun!! I stood up and tried to walk a straight line as I was so dizzy, and it gave somebody else a chance to be in the hot seat. Then my turn again. One of the last times I remember, was rough though. It was the only time I got a litte scared. I guess they twisted it a lot or something. I thought for sure I was going to fall off or something. But, it was still fun. For dinner that night, we helped ourselves to some of the left overs, being sure to save enough for the next day. Not to mention we had such a huge lunch, who needed much. A lot of the time, it was just desert later we helped ourselves to.

The next morning, we were up bright and early, a little too early. We hit the pavements shopping. I learned rather quickly why nobody went with Aunt Joann. But, I still liked the one on one time with her and she always got me something really nice. Aunt Joann would stand at one rack for what seemed like an hour, carefully sorting through each article clothing, as if she's going through a mental list of each person she has to buy for with each thing. Before we even left the first section of Belks my feet would be hurting so bad. I knew when we got finished with that first section we were about 1/3rd down with that store. She spent another 1/3rd of her time in other parts of the store, then the other 1/3 of the time at the make up counter. She would have all these different shades of lipsticks on hand. Slowly but surely she narrowed the shades down. Often time it would take a good hour or more before she was set on the one she was going to get. After 3-5hrs in Belks, it was time to move on. She would visit some other stores, but none were even close to Belks for her. She loved that store and they didn't have one in Georgia. That was why she loved it so much.

Eventually we would all meet back at the grandma's house. We would share with each other the great deals we found. It was time for lunch, so the infamous turkey sandwich made it's appearance, with a couple side items such as stuffing, collards, mac and cheese, or some other casserole, and maybe a deviled egg. Yummy, yummy, just as good as the day before. We sat and relaxed and napped as we watched T.V. There were kids all over the floor, since the rule in our family was always the older ones get first dibs on the seats. Even if somebody was 1yr old and there was only 1 seat, that oldest got dibs first. It was an understood rule, that's hard for me to get over now. When I get together with a different family or with my husband's family and here a 50yr old man has to sit on the floor, but a 6yr old has a seat in a chair or couch, I just don't get it. It's a first come first serve, move your feet, lose your seat kinda thing. Back to the Thanksgivings, ones from Georgia would shower grandma with early Christmas gifts. If only they knew what I knew. She had closets full of old gifts with tags still on it, she didn't wear the stuff, she just put it in closets. It was still fun though.

On Saturday we would once again meet at the house, as everybody packed up to leave. Never a dry tear in the place. We hugged, we kissed on cheeks, until next year. Yet another Thanksgiving, come and gone. Children were told to be good. "I love you" was the line everybody said to each other We never knew when it would be the last for somebody, anybody.

Then one year, it was. My grandmother, my mom's mom that is, passed away. To some she was a sister, and to a few she was Mom, to me she was Mema, but to many she was Aunt Barbara. I honestly don't remember that following Thanksgiving. I'm sure some came for my great grandma, but I just don't know. If the family did get together, it was the last Thanksgiving. That August before Thanksgiving we had a HUGE family reunion in Georgia. For once all my Mema's siblings were together, all but her. The one from California was there, and I met many cousins I had never so much as seen before. It was huge. After one passed away, Thanksgiving was never the same.

I know even if we still all got together it wont be the same. I mean, we will never all gather at one small house the day after for turkey sandwiches. We wont go out and rake leaves, and throw people in them after. We are all much too big to get on the swing anymore. No matter how much I want to relive those past Thanksgivings, I can't. Last Thanksgiving, last minute the Georgia folk, a couple hours away from us got together. It was too last minute for us to join them. I asked well in advance this year, hoping they would once again get together. I guess many are still trying to "find" that way of spending Thanksgiving. One cousin and his wife and newborn son are going to Disney World for Thanksgiving. An aunt and uncle are going to North Carolina. Aunt Joann will be with her son and 4 grandkids. My mom is going to Chicago with her best friend. My aunt here in Tennessee will be going up on the mountain with her best friend. My husband and I will be spending the day with roughly 25 people in his family. It's a bittersweat day, as I would much rather keep it simple with a small group than spend it with a totally different 25 people. My heart is with my family on Thanksgiving. It's so hard to get used to another family's way of doing things. They pick at the food before the meal. If I did that growing up, surely some adult would correct me. If there is one day of the year, that I miss my extended family, it has to be on Thanksgiving.

My Thankful List:

  • My immediate family (my husband, and my mom)
  • My extended family
  • The little baby growing inside me
  • Our jobs that we have, it could be worse, we could have no jobs at all
  • My friends
  • Our wonderful and most awesome church
Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Safe travels for all who are traveling. Be careful on Black Friday and have fun.


Elana Kahn said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you too!! It's sad how things change as the years go on, but hopefully you'll come up with a new tradition involving the new addition and lots of family too. We never had a set tradition, and Thanksgiving wasn't a huge deal (since there are a gazillion Jewish holidays where we do make a big deal lol). Have some turkey for me!