When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. I loved driving the three hours it took to get to our family, playing with the cousins I didn't get to see near enough, and eating until we all burst. It was one of the most perfect days of the year. The laughter, the noise, the hustle and bustle, the love, and the food, and the music--it fell simply and perfectly, stitched together like a warm quilt.
I don't remember the starts of the day well, but I remember the drive. The sibilant sound of the tires sloshing through the November slush, the whir-whir-whir of the windshield wipers clearing the wet off the windows; I watched the scenery out the window, knowing that each mile marker brought me one moment closer to that envelopment of love that can only come from family. I watched the landmarks. Here's the bridge, we're close. There's the double-silo, we're closer. Finally, we would arrive and Thanksgiving would truly begin.
Running through the house with my cousins was bliss. We played board games, watched movies, and ran outside in the cold. They were the only constant friends I had in my childhood; our frequent moves brought other kids in and out of my life too quickly to form a strong and stable bond. My cousins and I had shared history, a common past. It probably meant far more to me than it did to them, but it was something so important to me that I could nearly touch it. Our relationships had a certain solidity that my regular friendships lacked. A substantialness that can only build with time and familiarity.
Every time we would run through the kitchen, there was something else to steal and taste: a bit of ham, some turkey (although I didn't like it then), pies and cookies, casseroles, stuffing, and rolls. The combined smells of the food were intoxicating. Picking out the individual scents was next to impossible but oh-so-fun to try.
I don't remember who made what--I did not spend near as much time in the kitchen as I did playing with my cousins--but I have retained snapshots and snippets of those moments in the kitchen. One aunt pulling things out of the oven and finding space on the counters, laughing and talking the whole time. Another aunt being teased for her yearly contributions: pies from the local supermarket. And Grandma. Of course Grandma would be in the kitchen, making the turkey and rolling out her homemade noodles.
Grandma's turkey and noodles was the only thing I would eat back then. It doesn't surprise me that I would remember that.
When I remember these things I can't help but wonder what my own children will remember about our Thanksgivings. It's still my favorite holiday--and I daresay the boys seem to love it as well--but we have very different traditions from the Thanksgivings of my youth. I hope that we've managed to weave together our own warm blanket of memories for them, even if the threads are made of very different materials.
Are your Thanksgiving traditions the same that you had growing up? Are you able to go home to visit or do you live too far to travel? And how about it? Are you ready for some turkey?!