Passing on Family Traditions – My First Thanksgiving

Family traditions are the back bone of our holidays. As a child, I always knew what to expect from any given holiday. I knew where it was going to be held, what the menu would be, and who would be there. Life happens and there would be minor deviations here and there, maybe an addition or change to the menu for example, but traditions hold firm in my family. As we’ve grown older, gotten married, and had children of our own, there has been talk of who is going to be the next to hold the torch for each holiday. November 28th, 2019 is my very first Thanksgiving.

The History of our Family Traditions

This past October marked my parents’ 44th wedding anniversary. Of the 43 Thanksgivings of their marriage, my mom hosted 41 of them. Some years she cooked the meal, but served it at someone else’s house. One of those years was 2006, the year her granddaughter was born on Thanksgiving morning. She prepared the meal, carried it across the street to my aunt’s house in order to avoid reorganizing her entire house for the feast, and caught a flight Friday morning to meet her grandbaby. The woman had Thanksgiving down to an absolute science.

It was never a question of whether or not mom was making Thanksgiving. Asking her whether or not she was hosting became a family joke, because of course she was. She often joked with me that people gave her so much credit for taking the difficult holiday, but she felt Thanksgiving was the easiest of the holidays to prepare. In her words, “Turkey really cooks itself.” Our family tradition is simple, stick to the basics – turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberries. We have a few dishes that come and go dependent on the year, squash and rolls to be specific. Since my husband entered the show 11 years ago, we added turkey noodles; his favorite dish from his grandmother’s traditions. If you are heading to our house for Thanksgiving, you know what to expect.

The Torch Passes to Me

This year the Thanksgiving torch passes to me. We lost mom November 12th to CLL, so instead of preparing her 42nd Thanksgiving dinner; she will watch from above as I prepare my first solo Thanksgiving meal. Now it is not truly my first time preparing the meal.  I have been in the kitchen at my mom’s side for about the last 30 years. As soon as I could reach the counter and use a knife, she let me help. I know the routine and cook in the same rhythm. There is not a question on what to buy, on what day to do what, and what dishes and silverware to bring out. I know the whole routine, but it feels so different with her gone.

Mom prided herself a bargain shopper and never in her life paid more than 39 cents per pound for turkey. “Why on earth would you do that?” she would always say. So when I purchased my turkey for 33 cents per pound, I felt I started things off on the right foot. I bought all the ingredients for the meal from memory and then quickly checked the recipes to make sure I did not forget anything crucial. Today I made the cranberry jello mold, the only part of Thanksgiving I never prepared before today. I followed the recipe card, written in her handwriting, to the letter and will let the family decide if I met the mark. Everything is right on schedule.

Holding Strong to Family Traditions

As I sit here writing; I am reviewing a mental check list of what needs to be done tomorrow. Get up, prepare stuffing, stuff the turkey and place it in the oven by 11am. I am also contemplating making homemade rolls and at what part of the day’s plans it can fit. Mom was not a big eater, but she loved my homemade bread and rolls. I just added them into the menu last year and they should become an every year occurrence. I love the simplicity of my mom’s Thanksgiving meal and I will be holding strong to that tradition. As much as I love to cook, there will not be an introduction of 7 more unique and complicated side dishes to our meal.

I miss my mom. It feels a little empty and lonely doing this without her. I also feel her presence. I hear her voice in my head, “It’s not that hard honey, you can do it.” I will cook delicious food and set beautiful tables and remember all the years we laughed and drank coffee watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on television. All the years we split house cleaning chores, because I hate dusting and she hates vacuuming, will parade through my mind. I will remember all the mornings we said good bye to Adam and Dad as they left for the Lions game and busily spent the day together, just the two of us.

Thanksgiving will always hold a special place in my heart. It is not about the food, it is so much more than that. Thanksgiving will always be about family. Our Thanksgiving table always has room for one more. Whether it is the 17 we are having this year or the 48 we had in the past, it will be a day of love and laughter with family and friends. It will be about mom and all she taught me in and out of the kitchen. Thanksgiving is about family traditions and I am happy to carry the torch.

Thanksgiving table - tradition

Thanksgiving 2007

Here are a few posts about my mom:

My Mom – A Legacy of Unconditional Love

Praying for Miracles and Saying Goodbye

 

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