Do other countries have a "Thanksgiving" day? I need to research that because I am curious. Of all the days on which we celebrate one thing or another, Thanksgiving is my favorite. As a child, any holiday which involved the giving and receiving of gifts was the favorite! Why wouldn't it be? But as I grew older that changed.
As a child, Thanksgiving meant traveling to see my grandparents in Georgia, which I already mentioned. My head is full of 'snapshots' of those holidays. A variety of aunts, uncles and cousins always peopled the event and there was an abundance of all kinds of delicious Southern food....the tables and counter tops were covered with every dish imaginable....because that's just the way it was!
Grandmama would have cooked and prepared for days.....and any family member who attended brought "a little something" to add to the feast. Sometimes it was a tried and true recipe. Other times the more adventurous cooks in the family would bring a 'new' recipe they'd found in some magazine or tried at a 'covered dish' dinner at church. I remember when congealed salads first made their debut....the question of the day among the cooking contributors was, "do we serve it with the meal or is it really a dessert?" Didn't really matter because it would certainly get eaten by someone!
The day before everyone descended on 640 Greenwood Street there would be decisions to make about where to put everybody at mealtime. The older members of the family which included my great grandmother, Mama Shaw, great aunts and uncles, and certainly the grandparents, including my Italian grandmother, Nonna, who came to live with us when I was 8 or 9......they sat around the big table. We children were stuck here and there. The other grownups sat around smaller tables or held their plates in their laps. It didn't matter. What mattered was that we were together....at least for one day....and we were thankful for that if nothing else.
Of course I loved being able to see and play with my cousins....Paula, Pam and Patty. Because their daddy, Uncle Allan, was in the Army they moved around a lot and weren't always able to be at family gatherings. But do you know what my favorite part of these Thanksgiving gatherings was? It was listening to the grown-ups tell their family stories.
After the feast was finished and the women had cleared the table, washed the dishes, and divided the leftovers to be shared......while the other children would find some sort of entertainment....I would often find a place amidst the feet of the stuffed and somnolent adults and wait quietly until tale telling began. It would usually start with "whatever happened to....?" or "do you remember when...?"
For me it wasn't so much the stories they told. It was a sense of being a part of the sharing of our family's history. It was learning from the mouths of my elders of the events which shaped and molded us into the people we were....the things which made us family...which still do make us "family."
I do not have the opportunity to see my extended family as much as I would like. Facebook has helped us stay more connected for which I am grateful. Sometimes I long for those Thanksgiving holidays from my childhood.....the thought that now I would be one of the 'elders' sharing stories of our family and its history makes me proud. The simple truth is that no matter where we are on Thanksgiving Day, we are connected. We are family.