Had Thanksgiving on my mind. Surrounded in recent days with so many planning the family gatherings and celebrations, of course I would go back to my past. I must check with my sister because I remember growing up, and at Christmas we had my Mom’s family over. In January it was my Dad’s side because he, one of his brothers, and a nephew all had January birthdays. But right now I can’t remember the Thanksgivings of my youth. My sister will be able to tell me about that. Whenever we had any of these gatherings, I remember there was a hierarchy of sitting at the big dining room table. (That table by the way now resides in the Catholic priest’s dwelling as Mom and Dad downsized then they sold our big house next to his.) I know there were two shifts of grownups, and the wee ones were in the “breakfast room” with the goal of making it two second shift of grownup status.
In recent years I have been alone for this holiday, and that has been okay. Since my friend moved back to Santa Fe last Christmas, she and I will go out to dinner this evening. Having been raised for many years with the huge family type holidays, it is at times nostalgic to think back . Each year it gets easier. But this year a memory came back, and it is not a pleasant one.
While still married and my children being very young, the holidays were spent with my family in my home town. When my Mom got up in age, my brother and his wife took over the holiday get togethers. Of course it was like most families, a bit chaotic. I loved it; a time my children could meet or renew relationships with their many cousins.
This one year however, my husband said he preferred we have our Thanksgiving dinner at home. I told him I thought my brother wouldn’t understand this change after all these years. He said to tell him we might stop by for a drink. As per usual, I gave in. It was not pleasant, and from then on there was a drifting apart. So Thanksgiving became my immediate family and not much else. In fact it was one such dinner that sparked my divorce. But that’s another story.
I said earlier that this memory was not a pleasant one. The “not pleasant” was because years later somewhere along the line, my daughter made the comment “Well Thanksgiving we really never did much anyway.” That hurt! In retrospect (and why must it always be in retrospect!) I realize that my husband had a life long aversion to being with family groups which was in addition to his saying he wanted leftovers, and if we went somewhere he wouldn’t have any. In those days I would have loved to invited some of our International Students to our home for Thanksgiving, but of course I didn’t.
Thinking of the best that I could remember, it was when a student who I was supervising in the Alternative Licensure Program, invited me to his Mother’s home for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was part pot luck, but to me a pot of gold. It was the type of experience I loved. There was a mixture of cultures, ages, Jungian scholars, musicians, artists, everything! As we sat down to begin our dinner, we each were asked to state what we were thankful for. For me, finally a great experience.
I am happy to say that my daughter does have great Thanksgiving Dinners these days. She creates memories for her family and their friends. And…it’s okay that I am not there.