Reflecting on Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past
by By LUCIE R. WILLSIE Associate Editor
Nov 25, 2012 | 489 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brian is the youngest of eight kids.

He’s also my cousin. Second cousin, I believe. I’ve never really made a distinction. A cousin is a cousin is a cousin, in my opinion.

Anyway, he’s around 24 years old, I think. Maybe a little older. It’s hard to keep track of all the cousins. He’s been married now for several years and has three or four kids.

I remember when he was about 8 months old, however.

It was Thanksgiving and we were spending it at my cousin’s house — a first cousin with a big family. Everybody was spending it at my cousin’s house. All the kids were still living at home, all the spouses were still together and/or still living. And, I lived in the same town as most of my relatives at the time, and so did my mom.

So, the gang was definitely all there.

What I remember most, to this day, about that Thanksgiving was little Brian crawling along the center of the dining room table, making a beeline for the cherry tomatoes in the salad bowl that was sitting smack dab in the middle of the table.

He must have gotten help from one of his seven siblings, I’m sure of it, although I didn’t see that part of it actually happening. He had to crawl across half the table, right down the middle, to get to the elusive red marbles, which I’m sure he thought were candy and not veggies. Or fruit. Whatever.

Anyway, I’m not sure why I remember this, out of all the Thanksgivings I’ve celebrated, but it’s one of the first memories that always comes to mind.

My actual first Thanksgiving memory ... well, let me think a minute here ... I’m not sure I can access a first Thanksgiving memory. I’m going back to my childhood, and nothin’. I thought people were supposed to remember such things.

Let’s see, what is my first Thanksgiving memory? Well, I think it usually starts with the Macy’s Day Parade. That’s how my earliest recollection of Thanksgiving Day starts. At that time, there was little intrusion or benefit, depending on your point of view, with plans for shopping, either on Turkey Day or Black Friday. And, there certainly wasn’t any intrusion into the festivities with Cyber Monday — which is really Cyber Everyday (and Everywhere) these days. There were no cybers, er, computers at that time that now have become a daily lifeline in our lives.

Man, times sure have changed. Sorry. An old, sorry cliché, but I feel it more these days than at any other time before.

Back then, when I was growing up, Thanksgiving was really and truly a family-invested holiday.

Oh, glimmers are starting to come back to me now. Not each individual Thanksgiving Day, but the general feeling I get when I think back on the Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past.

I now remember Mom always put out the fancy, white linen tablecloth that always got something spilled on it before Thanksgiving Day was through. I don’t know why Mom always made such a face. It happened every year, like a tradition.

The biggest concern was always by the cook’s — usually my mother’s — fear of getting the food prepared properly and hysteria over the timing to get everything done with military precision, and especially not to forget anything. I wasn’t much help, except maybe for opening the annual can of cranberry sauce and putting it in a bowl and on the table.

I now do remember that part. Funny what one remembers — and what one doesn’t.

How old must those cans of cranberry sauce be if they are only used once a year? But never mind about that.

I still have never prepared a Thanksgiving dinner all by myself — from scratch — giblet gravy and all. I’m pretty sure I am going to leave this off my Bucket List. I love to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Not so much a fan of all the work involved. I don’t know how folks do it — and year after year after year. They have traditions. Special dishes. Special routines. Special trips and visits. It’s all too complicated and overwhelming for me, even without the cooking.

I still love watching the Macy’s Day Parade, but I also prefer just to spend a quiet day with one or two traditional foods of the day, and then just relax. The biggest activity I want on Thanksgiving Day is trying to find something interesting to watch because of all the football games on television.

I’m not being a bah humbug Grinch nor even antisocial. I just need some quiet alone time before the inevitable frenetic madness of the rest of the holiday activities and work projects gets under way. Thanksgiving is kinda like the no-turning-back-now starting point of the holidays in earnest. Starting the serious holiday season with a big, over-the-top party just seems to, well, make the rest of the season even more over the top than it already is.

But, wait a minute, I started out trying to reminisce on Thanksgivings past, and wasn’t having much luck.

Collectively, I remember my mom, especially, but Oma too, being especially stressed trying to make a “perfect” Thanksgiving meal. It was all about the meal, then, and still is in large part. We had a small family — just Mom, Oma and myself. Didn’t have a lot of guests over. That would have been way too much stress.

We didn’t always have a stress-free holiday — or any other day — as it was, and it was best to try to keep things as calm as possible. However, I still remember several meals where my food seemed to stick in my throat trying to shove down whatever current disagreement had been let loose.

I don’t want to remember those Thanksgiving Days.

But so many more aspects have been added today. Big families. Lots of friends. More and more food. Lots more activities and traditions. And, of course, the shopping. I don’t know how it is possible to keep everything happy and calm.

I do love shopping, however, and would enjoy adding that to my Thanksgiving memories, but I sure wouldn’t like the crowds. I’m not sure I like the earlier and earlier and earlier holiday shopping push that’s been happening. It seems to bring the holiday hysteria and pressures into our lives earlier and with greater intensity.

I don’t like that.

But back to my memories.

Or really, the lack thereof.

I really don’t have any, apparently, other than the two or three I’ve mentioned.

How odd.

I like Thanksgiving Day. A lot. I just can’t figure out why. Just, apparently, for no specific reason. And not dependent on any specific events, either.

I’m just glad that my enjoyment of the day isn’t dependent on any specific memories.