The fondest, and earliest Thanksgiving memories I have are of chaos! What seems like dozens of cousins, three mostly complete sets of great aunts and uncles, my dad’s sister and her husband, my dad and the three of us kids, all crammed into my grandparent’s tiny house on Maple Street in Vancouver. The adults crowded around the antique dining table, under the crystal chandelier that was rescued from the home of great grandparents I never knew. This dining room was minuscule, about 10’ x 10’ with the kitchen so close, it was an easy reach to the counters and stove top loaded with myriad traditional dishes, lovingly prepared by the aunts. Candles were glowing and liquor was flowing.
All of the cousins, complete with olives on our fingers, were squished on the couch, or perched on creaky leather seated folding chairs (one of which I still proudly own!) with two-three uneven card tables, covered with damask tablecloths, befitting the holiday gathering.
|My Uncle Dick, being silly outside his garage in the 1950's.|
Dinner was rowdy and rambunctious, loud and oftentimes obnoxious, as dear great Uncle Dick was unruly in the best of circumstances, and more so with ample doses of brandy. The male oldsters argued about anything and everything, while the women attempted to keep the peace. I adored all of my aunts and uncles, and, as drunkenness was just part of the deal, I never knew any better. The holidays were never boring with this crew.
|1984 - Much of my Dad's extended family|
our last Thanksgiving together
at Fruit Valley Community Center.
No one had a big enough house anymore!
We're missing lots of folks from this one.
And, many of those babies have their own babies now!
Later, much later, after my dad remarried for the third time, and added a few more siblings to the nest, our Thanksgiving meals were most often held in our sprawling six-bedroom ranch style home, with a full basement for the growing family to spread out.
I can remember at least one Thanksgiving with all my dad’s relatives in that basement, utilizing the pool table and numerous folding tables to accommodate the huge crowd for the meal. By then there were many more cousins. It wasn’t long before those gathering were including a few grandkids that the oldest of my siblings or I had produced, a revolving door of spouses, and they were boozy and chaotic, as was expected.
When we get together and laugh over the family pictures, these days, we figure out the year based on which spouses were in the photos, as it seems that almost every holiday gathering, through the 70’s and 80’s, at least one of the six of us was with a different spouse/partner. Most of my siblings have now celebrated 20-25 years of marriage, (with the same partner!) and now we use our children or grandkid’s ages to determine when photos were taken.
We no longer have Thanksgiving en masse, partially because the super glue that held our family together for over 30 years, our mom (my third, my step-siblings first) has been gone since 1996. Dad is in Arizona during the winter, although he tells us that he is selling and will be coming home to stay in late spring. And, we do have three non-negotiable days each year (Father’s Day, August Fish Feed, and the Saturday before Christmas) when all six of us, with our spouses and whatever kids and grandkids are available, reconnect with shared stories, lots of laughter and sometimes, a few tears.
This year, my sibs and I are all either in or nearing our 60’s, and most of us toast our blessings with sparkling cider. My sister, Pam, and her husband, Terry; my niece, Kelli, and her boyfriend, Garrett; Kailyn and Nick (her boyfriend) will be our only guests. We’ll easily fit around our dining room table. For the first time, Jessica is spending Thanksgiving with Brandon’s grandparents up north. Big sigh! I’m pulling on my big girl pants and not going to whine overmuch. As Jess told me, “Mom, you’re gonna have to learn to share!” Yeah, I know.
Time to get that turkey ready for the oven!
Here's to Happy Thanksgiving Memories and special blessings
for the memories we'll all be making today.
And, this year, I'll be lighting a special candle in thankfulness for the memories of those loved ones we are missing, who are no longer sharing our earthly space this year.