OK, there’s going to be a few words.
I LOVE Thanksgiving. I love the idea of having a day where we intentionally reflect on the things we are grateful for (although I strive to keep that in mind all year round.) I love the delicious food that is associated with the holiday (roasted turkey, my Aunt Janice’s cranberry salad, my Aunt Marcia’s corn and everything in between). But most of all I love it for what the day has become to my family.
When “us kids” were little, the whole gang would get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’d spend Thanksgiving with my maternal grandfather who used to snowbird in Hawaii and then Florida. Then, we’d spend Christmas with my maternal grandmother (Nana and Papa). But as families grew and the kids (my generation) started having kids of their own, this became harder and harder. So now we all do our best to make it home for Thanksgiving.
This year there were 50! Fifty people in one house (and nine of those 50 were in the single digit ages)! My aunt Deb is nuts and a saint for tolerating and hosting us all not only Thanksgiving day but also essentially through the whole weekend.
And as my cousin Annie and I taught our boys over the holiday, this clan is run by “Tradition” (screamed by our little guys with their arms in the air Power Ranger-style.) We’ve always joked that if a McLaughlin (my mom’s maiden name) does something more than once it becomes tradition.
Traditions that began well before my memory does include:
The day after Thanksgiving is “guys day.” Our dads and now our husbands (or male cousins) all go out together and do “man stuff.” I don’t think we are really supposed to know what happens although we all really do. They eat Reuben sandwiches larger than their heads, they go shopping to baseball card shops and music and electronic stores, they drink a few beers and play some video games or some other kind of activity. The point is a day of bonding.
While the guys are doing their thing, all the women folk (I promise we aren’t a sexist family!) stay home with the munchkins. Back in the day, my mom and each of her sisters and sister-in-law (she’s one of four girls and a boy) took turns teaching the rest of the group a craft. As little kids, my generation would just play, but as we got older we participated making our own crafts. As new little ones started making their way into the family, we found ourselves doing more passing of babies and eventually chasing of toddlers to get anything done. Now the cousins exchange handmade gifts with each other as the aunts do the same.
Then Saturday is “gals” day. The guys stay at home with the kids, and we all go out and stimulate the local economy. We don’t do any “big box” shopping, all local. We go to an old drafty barn for a chilly craft show featuring local artists and then meet some of my Nana’s family for lunch. Then we shop the same downtown Galesburg, Ill., shops.
I’ve started my own little tradition (it’s been done more than once now) and stay with my awesome cousin Annie. She’s got two sons — Preston who is 3 and Jameson who is 2 — and Miles is right smack dab in the center of them at 2.5. She and her husband Chad open up their home for us every time we visit. It is super chaotic with three little guys three and under and none of us get any sleep, but man is it fun. Other cousins (and occasionally my sister and her hubby) also stay at Annie’s. It’s great to get some cousin time!
So yep, I LOVE Thanksgiving.