Last year at this time, we were preparing to move our family from Oklahoma City to the Dallas area. We had months to go, but I was already lamenting the loss of our family rituals and traditions.
Like most military brats, I was raised in a nomadic lifestyle. Holidays were not spent surrounded by family and friends, but with whatever relatives happened to come to visit if they came at all. I didn't know what I was missing until the Computer Guy and I moved to Oklahoma City and were surrounded by both sides of his close and loving family. Suddenly, my holidays were not quiet affairs, but huge reunions of 30-40+ people. They were loud and warm with children underfoot and all his aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents reminiscing and gently teasing each other. It was a kind of wonderful that I hadn't even known that I had missed when I was growing up.
This year we're in Texas and his wonderful family is 3 hours away. We have a newborn and aren't traveling anywhere or having anyone over. It's just the 9 of us for dinner. (I know that sounds like a lot to most people, but that's just a normal weeknight for us.) I've had a few twinges of homesickness for what we've left behind, but I'm also excited to have the opportunity to forge new traditions for our family.
We started off last week when I asked the children what they saw as the absolutely necessary components of Thanksgiving dinner. I was surprised to find that the things I thought were required weren't even on their lists. They asked for Great-Grandma A's chocolate cake but no pies (I'm making apple for their dad), cornbread and rolls but not the homemade kind that I slave over every year they like the kind from cans and mixes, mashed potatoes but not whipped, absolutely no dressing (again, making it for CG), and jello salad that I didn't think they liked but it seems the table would be empty without it. They left out my beloved green bean casserole and called it "disgusting glop" when I asked about it. Who knew they harbored such animosity toward a side dish? I keep looking over their amended menu and smiling to myself over the things they've requested which will become must-haves on their own tables when they are grown.
I had our creative 7 year old decorate the dining room all on her own. She fell in love with paper chains and swagged the entire room with them. Breathless with her achievement, she asked "Can this be my job every year?"
My 11 year old son dreams of being a chef. He talks about it often. I turned over his Grammy's apple pie recipe to him and only offered advice when he asked for it. He flushed with his triumph as we pulled it from the oven 10 minutes ago and announced that this family favorite was definitely going into his restaurant someday.
#3, age 10, said he wasn't really into cooking, but could he be in charge of entertaining the littles while the rest of us prepped and cooked? He led them in a boisterous game of chase and then settled them down before handing out snacks.
These are the traditions I want to create. The kinds where everyone contributes their own special talent and are an equal part in the celebration. The tradition of my letting go of my idea of perfection and a Norman Rockwell setting and letting it be about all of us celebrating each other and thanking God for the gifts he has given us.
I want to film it all, the next 36 hours so that I can turn back time when they are grown and drink in the joy and ease of this first Thanksgiving of just us. Instead I stole an idea from my neighbor and bought a Thanksgiving table cloth. She showed me hers which is covered in the signatures and good wishes of 34 years of Thanksgiving holidays. It had the tracing of her oldest daughter's baby hand and also her "thankful for" from the year her husband proposed. I read the prayers and praises of everyone who had ever sat at her Thanksgiving table, some funny, some thoughtful but all a welcome memory to her. That afternoon I went and bought a white tablecloth and a set of pens for us. 30 years from now, I hope to be able to look back at my own babies' writings and be able to remember where we were when they wrote them.
Life goes so quickly. We have a new baby and one almost off to college. Before too long, they will all be grown and starting traditions of their own. That's why we have days like Thanksgiving. They remind us to catch our breath, slow down and soak in the moment....and our traditions help to anchor those days in time and bring us back to where we once were and remind us that for one day we can all go home again.