By Karen Wiseman
I love Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday because everyone celebrates it. I love the feelings of gratitude, thankfulness, joy, and warmth that permeate a Thanksgiving holiday table. And who among us does not enjoy the holiday repast served on a festive table with family surrounding us? It’s the family piece that has me thinking about what my immediate family has experienced over the years during Thanksgiving.
When our daughters were young children, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my first family, which included my mother and my sister and her family in New Jersey.
It was such a period of anticipation and excitement! Every year, we would dress our little girls in their pajamas and situate them in the back compartment of our station wagon, leave after work on Wednesday and arrive at my sister’s house around midnight. Thursday morning, everyone woke up early and trekked into New York City to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. After a well-deserved nap by everyone but my sister, who was busy cooking, we sat down to a beautiful festive table and enjoyed a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.
After dinner, our daughters and our niece entertained us with singing and dancing and make-believe plays. So much laughter and mirth, I thought Thanksgiving couldn’t get any better than this!
After a few years, our girls became teenagers and told us they wanted to stay home for the holiday weekend and spend time with their friends. I was heartbroken about telling my sister that we wouldn’t be celebrating Thanksgiving with her family.
Fortunately, however, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law graciously opened up their home to us and found four seats at their table for my family. There, my husband caught up and commiserated with his siblings and cousins and my daughters enjoyed good times with their local cousins and mutual friends over the holiday weekend. All the food was delicious and my sister-in-law also presented a beautiful holiday table.
This seemed like a good fit for starting another Thanksgiving tradition. But not so.
Our older daughter was married in May and right off the wedding altar declared that she and her husband (a chef by the way) were going to host Thanksgiving 2017! Once again, I had to explain to my sister-in-law that our family wouldn’t be able to join them for the holiday this year.
We had yet a new family to celebrate with. This time it was the four of us, our son-in-law, his parents and his sister and her family, which included two darling little children.
Although, we haven’t had many years together with our newest family, we still felt the feelings of gratitude, thankfulness, joy and warmth prevail over our celebration.
In fact, our son-in-law proposed a toast thanking all of us for being present and sharing in the joy of celebration in their new home. He also added that maybe we will begin a new Thanksgiving tradition from now on.
So what have I learned as I have experienced Thanksgiving with three different families?
It appears to me that family is not a stagnant entity. Rather, it is an evolving concept that changes as we grow and evolve. Perhaps in other families, the participants overlap at various Thanksgiving tables. It didn’t happen for us that way.
Yet, in all of our Thanksgiving experiences, we have been united by the blessings of abundance, warmth and good will at the holiday table and gratitude and thankfulness for our bounty and our loved ones whomever they may be.
Karen Wiseman is a retired teacher living in East Amherst involved in many volunteer activities.