Monday, November 17, 2008


I'm thinking about Thanksgiving. It will be different this year. It's our first Thanksgiving without Dad.

What are my favorite Thanksgiving traditions? We don't, didn't, really have that many. Get the entire family together, mix in a few compatible friends, usually people who live far from their own families, cook an enormous dinner amidst considerable hubbub and confusion, eat too much, and then play.

An after-dinner game of spoons

Mom and Dad have the biggest house, and it's always made sense for all of us to gather there, but Mama, now eighty-three years old, is finding the commotion a little hard to deal with. It isn't so much the cooking, I think, it's all of her kids, and the spouses, and the grandchildren chattering at once, and the lovely but inconvenient fact that we all tend to cluster in the kitchen.

You can't see them, but there are at least 3 other people in this kitchen, all busy!

Picture a kitchen, large enough, to be sure, but a kitchen where a feast is being prepared. The turkey. Giblets simmering on the stove. Potatoes being peeled at the sink. Sweet potato casserole being put together at the counter. Veggie Dessert, home-made cranberry sauce, gravy, dinner rolls, and more, all in various stages of preparation by at least three cooks at a time. Now add a couple of men and women standing around or sitting at the kitchen bar, drinking coffee, nibbling whatever they can get their hands on, a phone call or two from miles-distant friends and relatives, and three or four toddlers dashing through or clamoring for drinks, hugs, or attention. It is, in a word, pandemonium.

Typical scene from the next room

I called Mom last week, knowing her stress level was already ratcheting up as she played the memories in her mind, no doubt adding the weight of Dad's absence, and said, "Mom, I have an idea. Bob and I will be there a couple of days ahead of time. Let's make a list of..."

"Anitra, I always make lists! I have a menu list, a shopping list, a list of which dishes to use. It just doesn't help when there are so many people!"

"Mom, that's good, but I'm talking about a different kind of list." And I explained, "When I chaired the Revels auction, I knew that once we were in the space there'd be dozens of people coming to me, wanting to know what they could do, and I needed to not have to answer questions about it all afternoon, so I could get my own work done. I made up a list called, 'What Can I Do?' and taped it to one of the tables."

"Ohhh," Mom said. She was getting it.

"If anyone asked what they could do," I went on, "I said, 'Check the list on the table; take a task; and mark it off.' We're going to do that for this Thanksgiving. We'll put, 'Set the table' on it, and specify which dishes to use. 'Ask people what they want to drink' will be another, and 'Put ice in the glasses'. We'll just list everything that will need to be done, and then you won't have to answer fifty million questions on top of everything else."

She liked it! She liked! Makes me smile to think I may have taken a teensy bit of the work off her shoulders.

But traditions. Is what I've written a tradition, all that commotion? It's a loving and happy laughter-filled cacophony, but I'm not sure that's a tradition.

The traditions I can think of center around Dad. Dad at the head of the table, Mom holding sway at the other end. Dad asking, "What are you grateful for? Let's go around the table, and everyone say what they're Thankful for this year." Dad leading the prayer.

Dad carving the turkey. Dad helping himself to ham, his "favorite fruit". Dad getting a bunch of us around the table in the evening to play cards, keeping score in his elegant handwriting, using his own system of columns and initials. Dad. After the food, it's all about Dad.

This is not going to be easy.


Mokihana said...

What a bittersweet post. I really appreciated your words.

This is our first Thanksgiving without my mom.

My feelings are very polarized, but she's still not here anymore.

I wish you unexpected Thanksgiving blessings...

Berenice said...

So, you are missing your dad on Thanksgiving….

Danielle said...

I don't know you or anything other than this post....but it made me cry. This is my first Thanksgiving with out my grandfather.... Kindda just hit home.

Hearts and Stars.

DrD said...

Wow, I knew Gary looks a lot like Dad, but that last picture could be either one of them.

We won't be there this year, Sis. Joshua and the boys are coming up here. We are going to come down for a couple days after Christmas though. We will miss the family though, for sure. At least this year Mom won't be able to make me sit in Dad's seat and say the prayer. That was the hardest thing I ever did last year after Dad passed away!

SisterDG said...

What a beautiful and sad post. I'll be sending you and your family lots of good thoughts over the holiday.

. . . And I'm so dismayed at the spam-comment above (Berenice). What a really, really indecent move.

Yazmin @ A Pretty Rock said...

It gets easier, but he'll still be missed. (My dad passed away last year.)

My heart goes out to you.

storybeader said...

that's a great idea about the lists - perfect technique for a large crowd. Hope you get through the day without too much sadness. You remember a lot of things that needs initiation - so maybe at those slow times, you can be the initiator. Hope you have a blessed day.

Related Posts with Thumbnails