Every couple of weeks, the group will be issued a
"challenge entry". The site will post a excerpt from the challenge entries, as
well as the link to the complete entry found on the journaller's own journal site.
November 23, 2000
Its midnight on Thanksgiving morning and in a few hours, after I get up at 5 a.m. to bake pumpkin pies, we will be heading over the river and through the woods to Grandmas house. Or Grandmas condo. Weve been going to this condo for nearly 30 years now. It started when Grandma bought a place at Lake Tahoe, a place that would be a summer and winter playground. Nobody actually lives there, so it takes the pressure off of any person to do all the preparations for the Thanksgiving feast.
The whole family comes. That would be: Walts mother, his sister, his brother and sister-in- law, Walt and I and all the kids, and then, depending on the year, their cousin and wife (one year they got married at Tahoe over Thanksgiving weekend), any foreign visitors we might have had living with us, occasionally my mother and her husband (though since his death, she is always with us), and the odd friend or acquaintance who finds him/herself with no place to go over Thanksgiving.
Because this is not anybodys home, the dinner becomes a pot luck. Walts mother cooks the turkey and everyone else fills in with other food. My traditional contribution is pumpkin pie. Ned makes mashed potatoes (careful to follow Uncle Ernies recipe, which includes adding an egg to the mixture), Jeri does salad, Paul did creamed onions (it was perfect for him--he opened a can and put them in a pot and heated), Walts sister did veggies. Whoever didnt bring food did the clean-up after dinner. And on the morning after Thanksgiving, Walt and his brother make eggs benedict for everyone.
Traditions are wonderful, and we have a lot of tradition invested in our Tahoe Thanksgiving. The biggest started shortly after we began coming to the lake for the holiday. Tom and I happened to go out to dinner with Walts cousin and for dessert we all decided to try Baked Alaska. Tom thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread, so, gourmet cook that he has always been, ever since junior high, he decided he wanted to learn to make it and would test it out at Thanksgiving dinner. It was such a success that it has been Toms job to make baked alaska each year. (Which means that the pies I bring are usually eaten as a pre-breakfast snack the next morning.)
But there are other traditions. We play a lot of solitaire over the weekend. Sometimes board games. And for many, many years, there was a rousing game of charades after dinner Thanksgiving night. Some of our happiest times were spent watching Grandma try to act out some ridiculous title that the kids had thought up, or trying to get the idea of charades across to someone who was still struggling with English and couldnt quite get the notion of pantomiming a title.
Another holiday tradition is the silly Hallmark stand-up turkey that has graced the dinner table every year for so many years nobody can remember when he first arrived. Its one of those fold-out things and the cardboard has long since lost its ability to support the weight of the turkey, but Jeri has resolutely worked at making the damn thing stand, and stand he does, proudly loooking over the plates of food.
There is a lot to be said for tradition. Its the stuff that holds a family together. When the family is starting to fall apart, tradition can be very painful. The first Thanksgiving after David died was very difficult. Dave loved going to the cabin for Thanksgiving. Even when he was going through periods in his life when he wasnt all that connected to anybody, he was the old Dave at Tahoe. He loved laughing with Uncle Norm, teasing Grandma, and playing a mean game of charades. It was his very favorite holiday and his favorite thing to do, and so when we got to the house that year, the absence of Dave was everywhere. And when we sat around the table, holding hands and thanking God for our blessings, it was an extremely emotional moment because there was an empty chair at the table.
It started to get better. By 1998, the third Thanksgiving since Dave left us, things had started falling into place again. We had given up charades. There was no way we could play charades without Dave. But we substituted ...is it $21,000 Pyramid? Another word game that everyone enjoyed. I had started my own weird tradition, the purpose of which I never shared with anyone. I insisted on a group photo. That was because we were all together and I realized that we never knew when we would lose someone else. We took our group photo in 1998.
And then Paul died. As much as Dave loved Thanksgiving at the cabin, Paul loved it more. He talked to me so often about how he felt about being there and how much he loved everybody and loved spending the weekend with them. He died in April and the closer we got to November, the more I absolutely panicked. I simply could not go to Tahoe that year without falling apart. I told the family how I was feeling and everyone agreed that we would find another way to celebrate Thanksgsiving last year.
Tom said hed agree to pass on Tahoe last year if I would promise him we could return this year. I did. So last year we spent a very pleasant evening with Martas family. It was the first holiday that our two families have blended together and I was so grateful to Martas stepmother for taking all of us in. There were 24 of us for dinner and it was a tour de force for the stepmother. And it was just what the doctor ordered for us. There was absolutely nothing of our own holiday tradition about the evening and so it was easy to look on it as just a family gathering, not as Thanksgiving.
But later today we will return to Tahoe and we will celebrate Thanksgiving at the condo again. The loss of Paul and David wont be as noticeable as it would have been last year. Ned and Marta cant come either because Ned has to work at 5:30 a.m. the next morning (the fate of a radio man); and Jeri cant get home from Boston to be with us this year, so Tom will be the only kid there. Perhaps it wont be quite so bad.
I also managed to get to Tahoe a couple of times when Peggy was here and so have been at the cabin at non-Thanksgiving times and thus have other associations with the house, for the first time in a long time, and I imagine that will ease the pain of not having the kids there too.
We will continue with as many of the traditions as we can. We will give thanks for the blessings we have received this year--and thank God for giving us Paul and David for as long as He did. Jeri and Ned will call, just because they cant not be a part of the celebration, even if its only by telephone.
Tradition will continue. The family will continue. And somehow, I know Paul and David will be with us, if only in spirit.
My love to all of you as you enjoy your own traditions. Hug
everybody you love. Mend fences. Speak your love. Give thanks. And have another piece of
pumpkin pie for me.
|created 11/5/00 by Bev Sykes|