New Traditions

For the last too long to recall years I’ve thought of Thanksgiving as a holiday of tradition. When I was a kid we did the same thing every year on turkey day. We did a family thing. Whether it was a large gathering or small it was always with family.

My family changed over the years a lot. My parents divorced and there were step-parents and step family. There were some years I didn’t even see my mom. That’s for another post . And some years I had boyfriends and chose to spend my holiday with them.

Some years were fun and comforting other years the celebrations somber or even angry. But the permeating theme for me was family and friends gathering. And also food food food.

When my dad was married to his second wife we ate chicken as he hated turkey. But we still got out the good China and sat down and thanked God and got down to some good eating.

When I was in college the holidays became a game of driving from one parents gathering to another with a hopeful stop at some friends in between. But I actually liked this musical chairs and of course the multiple meals.

After I was married a few years we took over the hosting of Thanksgiving from my in laws. My husbands family is large. With six sons and their families often we had 25 or more at our home. We shared food duty. Everyone bringing something but it was a huge amount of work but for me it was pure joy. I had always wanted to be part of a large family.

So as luck would have it I married into this big family and as I said I took over hosting the family. And I loved it. About five years ago things changed as my in laws began their decline. My father in law had dementia and my mother in law suffered a fall she never really recovered from and neither of them could travel to my home to celebrate. So things changed.

Some years we brought the feast to them. Their house filled with family and food was eaten with my mother in law acquiescing control to others in her home and my father in law tidying up as we finished as his need to keep order was calming to him as his Dementia worsened and he eventually didn’t know who he was tidying up after.

And as those years progressed we began to take turns and go over separately. Each family visiting them alone for a bit but trying to overlap so we could see some of the others in the family. Sometimes a big bunch of us would still end up there and my in laws seemed to fare ok. I have so many pictures of us sitting on their sofa with them. I miss that.

Kevin’s big family was growing more with grandkids marrying and great grandkids being born. And those expanding families began new traditions of having their holidays with their new brood. It’s just what happens. But I miss them. Today I’ll miss all that chaos.

We lost Kevin’s parents recently and my dad as well though I didn’t see him on Thanksgiving typically but we always spoke. My mom now lives with us. With all the changes – especially with the loss of my mother in law – we are all figuring out what the holidays will look like now.

My family – my three teen kids- my mom – and Kevin and I – talked about what would be a fun new tradition for us. We decided we wanted to do the holidays at our new beach house.

We invited the extended family as our doors are always open but this year they are all trying on their new traditions as the beacons that brought us together are now gone.

Though I’m sad for all the losses -I’m really excited for this new way of celebrating. Since my last surgery I’ve been feeling better. I still have some pain that will hopefully improve but I’m able to cook again. I’m not cooking the meal! No. Bethany Blues – a great restaurant nearby- made the dinner. We began to order our holiday meals not long after I got cancer. Making the entire meal is too overwhelming – so I made desserts with my mom. We have one more pie to bake today. Then all I have to do is heat the meal up later. I actually like to cook and I’m thankful that I’m now able to do so but I just can’t physically make such a big feast -and frankly I like the ability to relax with family on the holiday. My kitchen duties are much less this way.

I will miss the big family gathering and we are now trying to make sure we all find some way at least once a year to try to get Kevin’s brothers and families together at some point. I suspect it’s going to be hard especially as the families expand but it’s important to try I think. I have one brother and it’s infinitely hard for us to get together. Getting six families together will be challenging.

I’ll miss seeing my mother in law. If she was still here we’d be going to see her today at her assisted living facility. But I know she was in pain and unhappy living there. She tried to make the best of it but I’m glad the Lord called her home to be at peace. But she won’t be out of my head today.

So here I am writing this at the beach house. Kevin and my daughter have left and are off to run in a Turkey Trot together. I don’t trot except for on a horse -and I think this is a nice father daughter tradition.

I think I’ll honor my dad today by spreading more of his ashes in my garden. I feel he’s a part of this house – a place he never has been but a place I would have never had if it weren’t for him.

I’ve found things can change so fast and we have to learn to ride the waves. I have had many changes in my life and seem to have managed to morph as needed. It’s not always easy. Many times I’ve dragged myself into the next iteration of life kicking and screaming. But this new way of being together over the holidays is exciting to me.

Tomorrow we will go to Lowe’s to pick up our new fake tree that we will set up here at the beach house and will decorate this weekend in preparation to have Christmas here. We will have a tree at home in Maryland too Just in case the weather strands us there. It’s all about being flexible.

So today I will be thankful for many things. Family and food and improving health. And I’ll be thankful for new traditions. It’s change that makes us grow. As my dad would have said “it will put hair on your chest” (for years I didn’t get that but I do now. My dad’s sayings – Lord I miss those!).

Happy Thanksgiving – with love from me.

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