Thursday, November 22, 2012

Traditions--Breaking New Ground

Traditions are funny things.  Back in the day, before divorces and re-marriages changed everything, tradition was important to me.  It was about stability and continuity.  It was about not forgetting important things.

Thanksgiving always meant turkey dinner with dressing cooked in the bird, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole and that jellied cranberry sauce that comes out in the shape of the can if you're very careful. It also meant at least one short moment of tears and sadness for Great Grandpa and his mad turkey roasting skilz.  Even now almost 40 years after his passing if I think about it too long, I'll have to cry again.  These are the kind of tears that can only be silenced by the suitable application of Dream-whip on the pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving was Mom, Dad, brother and me and our attending spouses and children.  It was coming together at Mom's and spending the day in the kitchen with her while the guys talked politics and football in the living room.  It was drinking Pepsi out of the glass bottle it came in and opening the kitchen window just a little to let out the steam from cooking the giblets for gravy.

Except for remembering Great Grandpa, none of that stuff happens anymore.  My family has scattered and we are not close like we once were.  It's made me very sad and very angry some years.  Angry and sad enough to make up my own traditions.

The first tradition I made up is the one where we have anything but turkey on Thanksgiving day.  It's sort of become a challenge to think of something new and different every year.  When I think of it, it seems a little silly to use that one meal as a symbol of all the plenty we are thankful for.  It makes more sense to me to celebrate with something different from the vast selections available every year.  The 'plenty' we have is so much more diverse than turkey.

The second tradition comes in the form of banning football, the viewing of football or the discussion of football in the house on Thanksgiving Day.  I don't care who's playing who or what title is on the line.  I don't even care if it's Huskers vs. Sooners.  No football.  Period.  Call me un-American if you like.  I'm fine with that.

The third tradition is one that ties into Christmas.  We used to go shopping the day after Thanksgiving.  We always said we didn't want to, but we always managed to forget something at the store or break something important that we had to replace immediately.  I don't remember it ever being done specifically on purpose.  It just always ended up that way.  These days, I shun Black Friday specials.  I don't look at the circulars.  I don't read the spam emails.  I don't listen to the ads on TV or the radio.  What's more, I refuse to listen to the Christmas music until no more than seven days before Christmas and certainly not on Thanksgiving Day.

The act of buying presents for those people on my list has always been gut-wrenching for me.  So I don't really do that anymore either.  I've always enjoyed making things as gifts even if they were not particularly well-received. I have never been very good at figuring that sort of thing out.  But I do enjoy making things, so there.  The joy is in the giving whether they like it or not.

The funny part is, now that all the Thanksgiving traditions I cherished from childhood have been replaced with other traditions of my very own, I don't feel any less stable, life is continuing and I haven't forgotten the important things--the things that make me feel grateful:

  • The roof over my head;
  • The food in my fridge;
  • My family and friends, both near and far;
  • My husband without whom none of this would be nearly as appealing;
  • And the freedom to enjoy it all as I see fit.
  • Oh, and Great Grandpa's bitchin' mad turkey roasting skilz which I inherited from my Mom.  Love you, Grampa.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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