A very long time ago in a place not too far away, I remember celebrating Thanksgiving. It usually began with Terry, my brother, and me getting up later than our usual 7:00 a.m., arguing over which cereal to have for breakfast, then watching early morning cartoons. My mother wasn’t home, she was next door at my grandparents’ house, already starting on preparations for the feast. We lived in a duplex with my grandpa, MeeMaw, and Aunt Rose (Grandpa’s sister) on one side and my parents, Terry, Aunt Blanche (MeeMaw’s sister) on ours, so she wasn’t far away. We, Terry and I, had full run of both sides. Eventually, we’d get ourselves dressed and wander next door to get in the way and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Aunt Rose always had a present for us and it was always the same thing. Something I looked forward to every year. A Christmas coloring book and a new box of crayons. (To be perfectly honest, I STILL love the smell of crayons!) Terry and I lay on the floor, watched the parade, and “died” of hunger smelling MeeMaw’s fresh rolls, turkey, and assorted other delights as they baked. One year, somewhere between 1972 and 1975, we had a massive crowd. My aunt, uncle, three cousins, and Grandma Doyle all came over along with my neighbors, Mrs. McDaniel and her three children, all older than Terry and me but not by much. The noise was phenomenal. I loved every moment of it. Family, friends, food, coloring, joking, catching a football outside (okay, so I didn’t really “catch” it, but I tried!!), even doing the dishes was fun because there were so many people. I was actually a fairly shy child, but I absolutely LOVED that Thanksgiving with so many people around.
Fast Forward to 1986. This was the year I married Scott. We married on November 29, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The mean wasn’t nearly as chaotic as that one in the ’70s, but it was still pretty damned good. Both of my grandmothers were there )grandpa, Rose, and Blanched had passed away) along with Terry, his fiancee, Scott, and both of my parents. We laughed, learned about how Grandpa once brought home a live turkey on the bus after getting drunk as a skunk on homemade wine, ate our weight in turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and everything else. Not as many people there, but I still felt cocooned with family, warmth, and love.
1994. My house. I now had babies – 2 perfect boys. I wasn’t about to drag them out to everyone else’s house, so I hosted Thanksgiving. My mom held the baby, Nick, and Michael watched the parade with his grandpa and dad while MeeMaw and I cooked. It was great. While we ate, I looked around. The dishes, my great-grandmother’s sparkled. Michael gnawed on a turkey leg that was as big as his head and Nick discovered the pure joy of a corn casserole and MeeMaw’s rolls. I couldn’t help but notice, though, the empty seats that should have been filled with my grandfather, Rose, Blanche, and most of all, Terry. Still, I felt them there and loved them all.
2017. Time, it seems, moves faster as I get older. This year so many more will be missing. I will not even be hosting the dinner. Michael and his wife will be. Michael married a woman who is lovely in every possible way and I am so very, very happy to claim her as my daughter in law. At his table we, Scott and I, will sit beside her father and grandmother and enjoy a dinner my son and I will prepare. He’s doing most of the work, in all truth, which makes me so incredibly proud I can’t hardly contain myself. I’m bringing desserts which MeeMaw taught me to make. My baby, Nick, now lives 4 hours away and can’t come home again for the holidays. My father will enjoy his feast with his son, mother, sister, Rose, Blanch, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. My mother won’t even know it is Thanksgiving and will eat at the Nursing Home because she can no longer leave the facility. Even if I did bring her, she wouldn’t know where she was or whom she was with. I will feel the loss of each and every one of them.
My family has changed drastically over the years. I never would have thought, back in 1973, that I would be the mother of 2 men. That I would have to celebrate so many holdiays without both of my sons with me. That my only brother would have been killed at the age of 27. That my mother would lose her memory. That I would, by default, become the matriach of the family. But some things I hoped for, and they have happened. I HAVE 2 sons who are strong, compassionate, kind, and wise. I have a husband who has stood by me through all the grief and loss. I have a daughter-in-law who is the only person who loves my son as much as I do. I have a mother and father-in-law whom I respect, admire, and love.
I have lived a blessed life, and I am thankful.