Thanksgiving 2015 is now part of my history. I love Thanksgiving Day. In fact, I would have to say it is tied for my favorite day of the year (the other being Christmas Eve). There’s always been something about Thanksgiving that makes me feel safe. As a child, my mom would be up early to get the meal prep started. I would wake to the mixed smell of my dad’s coffee brewing and turkey basting in the oven. My dad would be in his rocking chair, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade would be on the television set, and the living room would have plates of snacks set out…Hickory Farms beef stick, a cheddar cheese log, crackers, potato chips, Jax Cheese Puffs, and Bison French onion chip dip. We could snack to our heart’s content while enjoying the parade with dad. When Santa Clause made his grand entrance at the end of the parade, one of us would run upstairs and grab the polka dotted case of Christmas records. In my house, we were not allowed to play Christmas music until after Santa made his arrival on those New York City streets. By mid afternoon the turkey would be done, along with all the trimmings, and we would sit down as a family and eat. The house would be warm from the oven being on for hours. After dinner it was football for my dad, kitchen clean up for my mom, and the rest of us would find something to do, whether that be watching something on one of the other televisions or playing a game. Before bed a turkey sandwich was enjoyed by all who had some room left to eat it.
When I grew up and got married, I kept many of the same traditions I had grown up with. Snacks were spread in our living room on Thanksgiving Day, a big turkey cooked in the oven, family gathered around our table–even if it was only my husband, myself, and our four kids–and the Macy’s Day Parade was a must. The one thing I did stray from was the rule that Christmas music wasn’t allowed until Santa’s entry. I start playing Christmas music in October. In those years of having children around our table, I never stopped to think what it may be like to one day not have everyone there. My mom probably didn’t either. But, the last few years has seen that very thing happen. In fact, it has been four years since all our kids gathered around our Thanksgiving table together.
It never gets easier.
Last week, I met a dear, dear friend for breakfast. She told me about a tradition that she has with her two girls every Christmas season. Her girls are 12 and 9 I believe. It didn’t occur to me as she was talking, but later on I thought about the fact that some day, in all probability, her girls will no longer participate in that tradition with their mom. They will grow up and begin lives and traditions of their own. They will certainly face those days with excitement as they try to find a way to personalize their holidays with their own families. I know this because I am living it.
For many years, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my oldest daughter and I would wake up early. My husband would get to sleep in after he and I had spent the early morning hours the previous day participating in the black Friday madness in order to get the best deals on gifts our children had asked for Christmas. But Saturday was reserved for her and me. We would plan ahead where we wanted to go–the object usually being to shop for my husband while he wasn’t there to snoop at what we were buying. 🙂 Halfway through our morning, we would take a break from shopping and go to Panera. We would order a big cinnamon roll and a hot chocolate and sit down and talk. Upon finishing our delicious treat, we would head back out to finish the shopping we set out to do. Sometimes, the money wasn’t there to actually buy what we needed to so we just browsed and hoped that at some point we could come back for the things we desired to give to the ones we loved. I distinctly remember a time, when she had come home from college for the Thanksgiving break, that we went to a craft store. In the middle of an aisle was a bin full of very large stuffed animals. My college age daughter picked up an “ephelant” (as she called it) and began to pretend she was five and having a temper tantrum because she wanted the “ephelant”. People stared at us as she walked through the store saying, in a very loud voice, “I want the ephelant! Mommy, mommy!” That is such a fun memory to look back on, even though at the time, I wasn’t too impressed! 🙂
Tomorrow is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But I won’t be going shopping and to Panera with my daughter. In fact, I didn’t get to do that last year either. My “baby” is now married, has a wonderful husband, and a baby of her own. And currently, she is hundreds of miles away, celebrating the holiday with her other family–her wonderful in-laws. She sent me some pictures yesterday of our precious little grandson as he celebrated his first Thanksgiving in another state. I know his grandma and grandpa on his daddy’s side are absolutely thrilled to have them all there and I am so happy they get to spend a few days with him–he is really the sweetest little guy you ever did meet!
But…I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish she were here with me, to go shopping tomorrow morning, to sit at Panera and enjoy a cup of delicious hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll. When tomorrow morning comes, the early hours will probably find me still in bed. And in some ways, that makes me very sad.
Traditions are wonderful. They evoke warm memories of years past. They can also be painful though.
And, it seems, no matter how much you try to prepare for the inevitable fact that children grow up, you just are never ready.