Friday, November 25, 2011

What is Tradition?

For the first time in 19 years, I didn't do "the big dinner" on Thanksgiving.  I don't intend to do the big Christmas dinner, either.  I just don't have it in me to do them right now.  We had a Thanksgiving-style dinner, but it wasn't *my* cooking.  It's not just that I'm a good cook (which I am)'s that the tradition wasn't there.

As a child, we didn't have many family events.  Mom and I were pretty solitary before she met my stepdad; even then his family was fairly small.  We still had "the big dinner" though, and the ritual was always so soothing.

Thanksgiving morning began with a fairly early breakfast; usually pancakes and sausage or something similar. Then, the women would start cooking.  Turkey, stuffing, ham, potatoes, several veggies, salads, deviled eggs, trays of olives and pickles, rolls, and pies.  Our dining room held a table that seated 10, a buffet, and a sideboard.  Every surface that could hold food did, plus some left in the kitchen.  The table was meticulously set with china and silver, cloth napkins, and all the good serving pieces.  The big coffee urn was filled, sodas set out, pitchers of iced tea, milk, and juice joined them on the sideboard.  Then, everyone gathered and found their seats.  The children were seated at a small table in the kitchen, while the adults sat around the table.  Then began the prayer of thanks, followed by the ritual of carving the turkey and passing dish after dish around the table.  Plates were loaded for us kids and brought to our table.  The food itself really has no memory for me (except the creamed onions - oh how I love them), but the spirit of the meal does.

After everyone had eaten their share, the kids were sent to the family room while the grown ups cleaned up.  This was before every household had TV with a million channels, so we likely watched a Christmas movie on one of the few channels we received, or we laid on the floor in a stuffed stupor.  Once the kitchen was clean and the dining room re-assembled, we would play fun games together like Charades and such.  There was such a feeling of joy and togetherness that I relished the holidays.

I've tried over the years to preserve that tradition.  I've done what I could to make each year's holiday as festive as those I remembered from the past.  I've spent as much as 8 hours in the kitchen at a time, toiling over pots and pans and fretting about how I would keep everything hot at once.

With the stress of grandma's issues and the tight budget we are living on, I had no desire to put the effort into the tradition this year.  My therapist challenged me when I told her I had decided not to do it and asked if I thought I was depriving Faith of a memorable experience.  Honestly, with what we have gone through recently, I don't think I am.  I know in my heart that next year will be amazing and new traditions will be started....but this year, my heart isn't in it.

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