Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgivings, then and now

Its been a few days since the turkey gobbled it's last gobble. and the long anticipated sandwiches have been consumed. I have finished making the turkey soup putting it in its container, snapping its snap top lid. I gingerly tossed out the flowers and put away the china, shined my silver and placed it back in its chest. Thanksgiving 2010 has passed like so many before.

Ever since I was a young girl, Thanksgiving has been about family.
First in Westchester, in our 2 bedroom house, there was Mom with her store bought jar of spiced peaches and canned cranberry sauce. I remember waiting for the stuffing which I loved, and begging for the gizzard or heart from the boiling stock. I didn't like pumpkin pie or any kind of pie for that matter (except chess pie). We always had rice with the dinner (never mashed potatoes). I didn't really care for gravy. I remember at least one Thanksgiving at my grandparent's home in Westwood, with my Tennessee Grandmother Rose, making sweet potatoes with marshmallows (these I did like, they were like a bowl of sugar).

After moving to Los Altos the traditions continued and my tastes changed. I couldn't stomach gizzards and hearts anymore. I grew to look forward to pie (as long as there was plenty of whipped cream). I found the marshmallows overkill on sweet potatoes and was glad my mother would opt out of the dish entirely. The gravy was tasting better and better.
Our family was now the four of us kids and my parents. Grandfathers came to live in Los Altos when their spouses died and our table enlarged to fit them.

I spent my Freshman year's Thanksgiving in Michigan with my college roommate Mary. It didn't feel right to be away from my family, but it gave me the chance to share other traditions. I had never had spiked egg nog before. I had never seen a Thanksgiving where the trees were bare and the threat of snow surrounded you. I missed my Mom's spiced peaches.

As time went on and marriages came to the eldest Collis girls, we grew to combine our families traditions with those of our spouses. Some years our tables would be larger than others. Some years the card tables would come out for children. At extended family Thanksgivings, there were sometimes stilted, conversations over cocktails for the adults, while the children played games with their cousins. Mashed potatoes and creamed onions were on Thanksgiving tables where rice and spiced peaches used to be. One Thanksgiving at our house involved a van for 15 and Beach Blanket Bablyon, another in Gig Harbor with no power, another in New England with snow. Thanksgiving changed a little each year and evolved with us all, and so it has continued to do this year.

My sister usually is the Northwest Thanksgiving hostess and we have spent several at her home. Its the closest I come to recreating those Collis Thanksgivings of days gone by(without the jarred peaches and canned cranberry sauce). This year she was off to Salt Lake to have Thanksgiving with our latest family addition Audrey (her grand-daughter) Michael and Kelly. Our own daughters were away for Thanksgiving. Katie wasn't feeling up to snuff, and Allison had just returned to Denver from Washington DC. Allison and her husband Chris celebrated Thanksgiving together. (She now is in Costa Rica for a couple of weeks). Glenn's Father is still not feeling up to dinners out, so we made plans to visit him the next day. My father and his wife live in San Diego. My brother lives in Bend, Ore. Glenn's sister celebrates Thanksgiving with Tom's family. That left Glenn and me with the dogs to decide what to do this year.

So kidless, and without other family coming by, this was an adults only Thanksgiving. Patti, her husband John, her sister Cindy and one of their friends, Tonya, came by. The fine wine came out. We had a wonderful evening. I believe a toast was made "Friends, the family you make."
I know I overate, I don't know about anyone else. I went to bed and couldn't sleep, the creamed onions not quite settling in my stomach and my heart a little sad.

I miss a lot of things about the past, but what I miss most is the feeling of being complete when your young daughters shrug as you plop them in front of the TV to watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Allison in preschool belting out,
"Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Pie. If I don't get some I think I'm gonna cry. Take away
the green grass. Take away the sky. But don't take away my pumpkin pie."
But she hated pumpkin pie. The smile on Katie's face when she knew there would be potato rolls and pie (which she loved). The sight of the two of them in their Thanksgiving dresses, putting their coats on to go over to Oma's for dinner. The sound of them giggling in the car together. Even the tired and grumpy moments that eventually would come along with all of this. The memory of them on a Thanksgiving in Vermont trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues.

I miss this most of all.
The realness of those Thanksgivings.

It's funny that at the time, I knew how lucky I was - to a degree. Now, now that those times are gone, I know I was the luckiest person in the world. And I know now how lucky we all are to have each other. Sisters, brothers, husbands, children, parents and friends remind us, we are not alone in this world. Our shared experience deepens the meaning and imprints our life stories in the process until our lives become layered with each memory. Deeply faceted and shining like the crystal on the table, our memories are there to hold up and watch as the colors dance across the room.

Happy Thanksgiving.

PS - More Thanks... to our latest team member Stephanie Cihak! Join "Team are we there yet?"
Email me and I will give you directions to sign up. Make the commitment to end Cancer in our lifetimes. Everyone deserves another slice of pumpkin pie.... and a cancer free life.