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Four families have gathered since 1974 to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner together. The party rotates between the four houses, and over the years things change — a divorce and several deaths in the immediate families. Some of the members spend time in Alaska and can not host. The gathering has visitors from Sweden, and even strangers from New Zealand who are invited to attend to try an American Thanksgiving. Some of our parents die, and our children marry, and they have children. Some years there is enough snow to sled before we eat turkey. Some years we play games like Pictionary, or the kids give the adults a musical concert. In the early years new dishes and glasses are bought and admired. Some side dishes come and go, but we always have turkey and smoked wild duck. Conversation is good and easy, and varies, but doesn’t vary much in values. We are lucky that way! No fighting between Liberals and Conservatives. Being together is comfortable, and it’s an event we all look forward to.
[Green glasses enter the tradition 1982.]
[A dear departed one.]
[Grandchildren present a holiday concert.]
As one friend wrote me “Today is Sunday, and I am girding my loins for Thanksgiving week. That means that I am trying to keep my cool, not to think about all that must be done, and trying not to stress.” She expresses my sentiments exactly. As the years passed our group grew larger and larger, and when I joined in 1993, we could expect over fifteen for dinner, with some later years reaching toward thirty. Last year I had to farm out the three dogs on Wednesday and move the cats to my office, while we cleaned the house, the floors, the walls, and windows. The dogs didn’t come home until after everyone left Thanksgiving night! I had to move furniture and set up extra tables, and buy, borrow, or rent extra dishes and glassware. I felt like I was preparing for a big home wedding. By the time guests arrived, I was weary and rather flat, but still trying to smile.
The tradition has ended. One of the couples announced last Thursday at the gathering they simply could not do it anymore. And, I was somewhat sad, and I also felt a huge relief. I had already begun to worry about the next November when I would have to host. One of the children explained how nice it would be to have their own tradition— to start their own tradition. And with our gathering ending, they could do that. And now the parents can go and visit their kids instead of the kids having to come here. So, it all makes sense. A sense of loss, a feeling of relief, and now a few days out- even a sense of new possibilities. Where will we go next year? What will we do on Thanksgiving Day? For the first time in forty – four years, it’s a question. A pleasant question indeed—but bittersweet.