Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Routines

Thanksgiving is a rather bittersweet holiday for me, mainly because I miss the routines and rituals of my childhood . . . that "melancholy nostalgia" I mentioned in an earlier post this week. Until I was in college, Thanksgiving was nearly always defined by dinner at my maternal grandparents' home, with my grandfather doing much of the cooking. I always thought it funny to find my him in an apron - this man who had driven ammunition trucks in World War II and worked as a sheet metal press operator until retirement, with mashed fingers and gnarled hands. Yet here was a man who could make the sweetest desserts in the kitchen and grow the most beautiful flowers in his garden. He possessed a truly renaissance personality, remarkable given his background and education. (I know, I've posted this photo before, but it's a favorite, showing me, my grandfather, mother, and great-grandmother in late 1964.)

After his death in 1988 the family moved on to other Thanksgiving routines, with larger groups of extended family, more noise, more jockeying for position at the tables, and generally more angst over the preparations for the holiday. At that point I stopped returning to Virginia and adopted a "no travel" rule for Thanksgiving.

In recent years, my wife and I have kept our little family close to the city, even avoiding the Macy's parade, preferring a quiet day capped off by dinner with my wife's mother. But as many of you already know, this Thanksgiving we're dealing with her sudden death of just five months ago. Slowly we're finding our way to new holiday routines, deciding, for example, to gather with friends - "orphans of the storm" my wife calls them - who have decided to eschew travel for Thursday's festivities. We're also going to the Macy's parade for the first time, having scored tickets for grandstand seats. (If you're watching the parade on TV, who knows, you might see us sitting in the stands!) I can't imagine jostling for position on the sidewalks with the hordes of people who will swarm into the city on Thursday morning, so I'm hoping that the bleachers will prove a little more civilized.

And, as I've mentioned before, we leave early Friday morning for Vermont. I'm trying to keep those terrifying thoughts of the Sunday drive back into the city out of my head, and realize I need to learn to let go and just accept the traffic and the hassle. Does anyone know if there's a patron saint of traffic jams? If I put a springy statue of "St. Fordatus" or "St. Chevrolatus" on my dash, will we avoid gridlock? Will "Our Lady of the HOV Lane" intercede on our behalf and grant us peace and clear highways? If only it could be that simple. Wish us luck.


jblack designs said...

Here's a wish for luck, Brian. Not for no traffic, because that ain't gonna happen, but for the fortitude to just breath and accept the traffic as part of the deal. Life is about trade offs, most of all. Yeah, you get a bit of traffic--but in return you get Vermont!

I love the thoughts about your grandfather. Oh how I miss my own grandmother and those times that seemed so much simpler (mostly because we were kids, I suspect).

Have a great time at the parade!

Isabel said...

Both my grandfathers have passed away, so I share your "melancholy nostalgia".
It is not easy, especially during the holidays, but they are always part of our conversations, our family moments, and we cherish their influence in our lives.
The way you refer to your grandfather made me nod and smile. So wonderful! I think I will read your post to my kids today (I hope you don't mind).
Enjoy the parade! We'll be making pumpkin pies this morning (a Thanksgiving tradition) watching the Parade on TV, and later we'll be having a Thanksgiving meal with my in-laws.
These are the days in which I deeply feel the physical distance that separates me from all my family across the Atlantic. But then, we spend an hour or so on video calls and Thanksgiving truly becomes THANKSGIVING.
Enjoy the parade!

One Wink at a Time said...

I hope you enjoyed your Holiday. Glad you had good weather for the parade.
I think you inherited quite a lot of your grandfather's well-roundedness. I totally appreciate men who step outside the old stereotypical "Guy Thing."
Have a safe trip. St. Christopher ought to be looking out for you...