Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Transient Traditions

Some of my ancestors. Their Thanksgiving traditions
changed over time, too.

It's common to think of Thanksgiving in terms of family traditions, but I'm often struck with how transient those traditions are.

As a young child, we always went to Grandma's house, and the menu was always the same. But as my mother took over the cooking, there was a subtle shift. Mom's rolls were delicious, but they didn't quite taste like Grandma's. And the supporting cast changed, too. The neighbors on either side of Grandma always came to dinner, but eventually they aged and moved away (or passed on).

After Grandma died, the Thanksgiving table became smaller, until my sister and I were married and our spouses were part of the gathering. But that also changed things. Because my wife and I alternated between her family home and mine for the holidays -- so sometimes we weren't there. And when my Mom could no longer put on Thanksgiving, we started having my parents over to our house for the meal. A different menu again, based on my wife's family traditions.

When Mom passed on, my Dad would either come down for Thanksgiving, or more often just go to a restaurant with my sister (who was now divorced), while we usually went to my wife's family. As for our children, well, they sometimes join us and other times spend the holiday with their own friends.

One tradition remained -- we always took a photo of everyone gathered around the table. And I realize now that we could probably date those photos by where they were taken, who's in the photo, and what's on the table.

Thanksgiving is a traditional time for family, but it's not an immutable one. The mix of relatives (and food) will resemble those of holidays past, but also have something new, as time continues to change us all.

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