Years ago when we would gather in Cooperstown with my husband’s family, the various family members would talk about who was married to whom, who had children, who had moved into so-and-so’s house. Somehow, those of us who had not grown up in Cooperstown for the last few hundred years, would shrug our shoulders and gather in another part of the room and talk about other things. My husband’s brother-in-law, Bill, called us the “outlaws” and we would have a meeting of the outlaws.
Thus, this year Thanksgiving was the meeting of outlaws, which left Sea and myself at home alone on Thanksgiving. I am not complaining. As my various kids and grandkids shared turkey with various relatives, Sea and I stayed home and shared half a turkey in peace and quiet, no football, no extra vegetables, just turkey and stuffing and gravy and …no conversation. Which gave me time to think
Thanksgiving, when I was little, was always at Granny’s house in Cambridge Mass. We would gather together for the dinner; my dad, his three sisters , Granny and Grandpa. My sister and I were the only kids. My dad’s sisters never married, or the one who did marry didn’t have kids. So we would follow the rules of good behavior and sit straight at the table, put our napkins on our laps, eat without slurping, and eat everything on the plate without complaining.. meanwhile the adults would carry on adult conversations. I don’t even know what they talked about. But I did know that when the main course ended and the plates were cleared to the kitchen, my grandfather, who must have had some sympathy for two of us, would declare it was time to march around the house to make room for dessert. What a relief!
After dessert it was the family document time.My grandmother would write a document listing all the pertinent historic events of the year world wide and within the family. It would be read and we would all sign the document. Somewhere in my archives of stuff I have copies, and possibly the originals, of those documents. I know I have seen my dad’s signature the year before he began school and the year after. This was notable because he signed his name left handed before he went to school and his writing was clear. He was told to change and his writing the next year was a jumbled mess as he tried to become right-handed. In later years he did write with his right hand, but operated tools and carved the turkey with his left.
When Granny was beyond entertaining the family at Thanksgiving, the whole event was shifted to my mother. I would come home from college and the first thing we did was move the living room furniture to the dining room and the dining room tables to the living room. That was so we could have a long extended table with lumps in the table cloth as the various connecting tables were not always the same height. But we could all sit together. This time we were not little kids any more. My sister and I helped with the meal, set the table and, alas, helped with the dishes. We were not alone in the dish washing as we had various aunts take pity on us and made the dishwashing event almost as much fun at the meal. The document was written by my mother and it, too was signed by every one present.
When Sea and I were married and living in Virginia, the nearest relative was Aunt Lucy who lived in Baltimore. Lucy was my dad’s oldest sister and happy to provide us with the family gatherings at Christmas , Thanksgiving and Easter,where my four kids were the majority in attendance… no document.. relaxed manners and very kid oriented events.
Our move to the west ended family gatherings. Now it was just the six of us and, to add to the event, four birthdays. All four of my kids were born between the end of November and early December. When they were very small, we would celebrate everyone’s birthday on Thanksgiving. It became like a mini Christmas but the kids figured out that if they didn’t share this event, they would get four parties, one for each, so we stopped the mass celebration. We did not have birthday parties with friends. Four kids were enough for me. We would have a special dinner and a cake and the presents, and by the time we got to the last birthday it would be an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins… yum.
We did have turkey and the trimmings and when the kids took off for college. Thangsgiving was a great time to have the kids come home and share the meal with friends from far away who could not get home for the event. That was what so great about the time off from school and work for all of us.
Then– surprise, Sea’s job moved us to Florida. The kids were all out of the nest so it was just the two of us. It was on a Thanksgiving day that we flew to Florida to look for a place to live. I was not happy to be missing a family gathering. Sea made a promise… we would eat at the best restaurant at the Atlanta air port before we flew on to Sarasota. Guess what?…. The better restaurants at the air port did not operate on Thanksgiving day and the few food areas sold day old sandwiches to munch on. That is probably the most memorable Thanksgiving ever for all the wrong reasons.
Since then, Thanksgivings have been all up hill. Sometimes it has been just the two of us. Sometines we have had a dinner at another time when the outlaw events are over. We usually get a phone call before or after the event, mostly to wish a happy birthday and hear where the various kids will be. As far as being thankful… I am thankful for my wonderful family and the people they have married and become and their wonderful kids. I don’t need to have a turkey dinner with them for that.