For all of my American readers, I send out a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your day is blessed by the love of family, good food, and all the things that make lasting memories. And also wishing all my Jewish readers a Happy and Blessed Hanukkah.
The following is a piece I wrote in 2009 and I thought I would share it again.
When I was a child, my Dad would break into that song as we crossed the Pennsylvania border into West Virginia on our annual pilgrimage to celebrate the Holiday with his family. “The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, through the white and drifting snow…”
The closer we got to his childhood home, the heavier his foot rested on the gas pedal as our Chevy station wagon climbed the hills on twisting roads and flew on the downside. His rich baritone voice belted the song, and in my imagination we were on that sleigh behind dapple grays in their rhythmic trot. I could hear the clump of their hooves and feel the blowing snow bite my cheeks as we were carried along.
It was magic, pure and simple. A magic that continued for the few days that we stayed in that ‘otherworld.’
Today as those memories float pleasantly through my mind, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas of sage dressing, pumpkin pie, and mulled cider that permeated my grandmother’s house. And I can hear the bustle of activity accompanied by short bursts of conversation among the women in the kitchen. The front bedroom is where the men gathered and brought out instruments. Their music became another soundtrack.
My brothers, sisters, and I would join other cousins in the back bedroom in between our numerous trips outside. Our biggest challenge was to see who could roll down the hill and retain the most amount of snow, turning ourselves into living snowpeople. The second biggest challenge was to see who would have the honor of receiving the drumsticks. They were dolled out on a ‘merit’ system based loosely on which of us waited the most patiently for the great announcement, “Dinner’s Ready.”
With memories like that, it was hard for me to face the formidable task of creating Thanksgiving Days that would live in glory for my children.
We were living in Texas, so mountains and snow were out of the question, and my singing never could quite match my father’s. I didn’t possess even a tenth of the culinary skills of my grandmother and my aunts, so the meal would probably be lacking. And we were more than a thousand miles away from cousins to help distract my children from their impatience.
But despite those limits, we managed to muddle through. I did manage a passable dinner and my husband actually raved about the German dressing. The pies were a major hit, all ten of them, and everyone was willing to eat the broccoli for the promise of a second piece of pie. And after cheering the Dallas Cowboys to another victory, most years, we would all tumble outside for a family game of touch-football.
In sifting through all these random memories I realize that the memory itself is not what is important. What is, is the fact that we have memories and they don’t happen by accident. No matter what we do to ‘mark’ these important occasions, it is vital that we do ‘mark’ them. Even if our process doesn’t live up to a Martha Stewart image or our own fond remembrances of childhood.
So here’s to our memories, no matter how we create them.