Sarah Roush

Thanksgiving. The day that diets are blown to bits and families, however they are defined, gather together for the day. A lot of things change, however, Thanksgiving is the one holiday which is more about family and traditions than any other, at least in my opinion.

If you don’t believe me, try serving a banana cream pie instead of a pumpkin. I guarantee, at least one person will gasp in appalled disbelief “We ALWAYS have pumpkin pie!” It doesn’t matter if pumpkin pie is greeted with a tepid response. It’s a tradition, so it had better be there.

Some traditions are best avoided and discontinued, if possible. For years, my brother and I used to joke over whether it would be my cousin, aunt or grandfather who started “the argument” at our family gatherings. Bonus points were given for whomever figured out at which point in the meal it would erupt. Truthfully, it made us dread the holidays with that side of the family. Time took care of the combatants and our gatherings are now primarily peaceful.

One of the holiday traditions, that I do miss was the post-meal activities with my cousins. After stuffing our faces, to the point we were in a near stupor, the girls would help clean the kitchen, washing dishes and putting away leftovers. The males would either plop down in the living room to talk about sports, or they would go pheasant hunting. I honestly don’t remember anyone bringing back a bird, so it might have been an excuse to wander around carrying a rifle.

My cousins would go for a walk “down the lane”. We often wound up at one of the tiny cemeteries dotting the area and would try to read the weathered stones. We would marvel at the depressions in the little graveyards, from caskets collapsing from age and moisture. The indentions looked like shallow little beds stretched out in front of the markers.

We would look for bittersweet and admire the brilliant red leaves of shrubs planted near the cemetery. The air would be cold and crisp, and the soft smell of pine trees would mingle with the aroma of decaying leaves and wood smoke from grandpa’s furnace.

On the way back to the house, we would tempt the neighbor’s draft horses to the fence for handfuls of grass we pulled along the way. They always obliged, and shared their grassy perfumed breath as we would stroke their velvety noses or scratch behind their ears.

We don’t gather like we used to. Family connections are more tenuous, homes are spread out. My cousins and brother are grandparents. I have a toddler. Beloved relatives are no longer with us. Life goes on.

This holiday, as you sit down to your meal, cherish the people you are with and the connections you have with them. Savor the familiar tastes, laugh at the corny jokes and let the warmth of the day wash over you. Above all – respect the day – and give thanks for your blessings, whomever and whatever they might be.

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