The holiday season is here and that means we are just a few more days closer to resolving the chaos of 2020. That fact alone should make us all a little more thankful this Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving and the holiday season in general awaken memories from a much simpler time. Every year it seems those memories surface alongside the smell of roasted turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving has always been one of my most cherished holidays, and for more complex reasons than just my love of food. My childhood memories have always been a large part of what makes Thanksgiving so sacred.
My family would travel across town to spend the holiday at my grandparents’ house. I still remember the joy of my grandmother when the entire family was able to be together for Thanksgiving. The aromas of casseroles, yams, Honey-Baked ham, and turkey filled the air. Just the smell of a warming Honey-Baked Ham still takes me back to Grandma’s kitchen. My grandmother would have the Macy’s Day parade playing in the background, she always loved a good parade. The meal would be served and in what seemed like minutes quickly devoured. Soon after the meal, the front porch would be engulfed with the smoke of Grandpa’s post-meal cigar. Watching the football game and eating pumpkin pie would finish out the afternoon and before we left for home we would end up watching a Christmas movie. My annual viewing of “Home Alone” reminds me of sitting criss-cross applesauce on the hard floor of Grandma’s living room. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I fully appreciated those childhood Thanksgivings.
The most magical part of Thanksgiving was Grandma’s table. There was always a clear distinction between the kid and the adult table. I don’t remember my last time at the kid’s table but I do remember the wave of pride that I felt the day I was promoted. Grandma’s table had a special magic that hovered just underneath the six table cloths that covered it. Her table was a place where all were made to feel welcome and if you left hungry it was in her words, “your own fault!” For reasons unknown, the food always seemed to taste just a little bit better around her table.
I don’t guess I will ever forget one of the last Thanksgivings that I had with my grandfather. In my senior year of high school, our football team advanced to the third round of the playoffs. That meant that you were practicing on Thanksgiving morning. My family’s usual holiday travel plans to see my cousins were disrupted. My dad and grandpa begrudgingly stayed behind and the three of us had Thanksgiving together. Truth be told, I don’t think either of them wanted to travel the 14-hour drive to Tennessee to my aunt’s house. Before leaving my mom reminded me how important it was to make sure we called Grandpa and took him to eat on Thanksgiving Day. I remember wondering how impossible it would be for us three men to duplicate the magic that existed around Grandma’s table.
There would be none of Grandma’s mashed potatoes, no turnips, no homemade pie. That year it was just the three of us, sitting at a restaurant buffet, and it remains one of my most favorite Thanksgiving memories. It probably isn’t fair for me to say that it was a moment of epiphany, but it did leave a lasting mark on me. Somehow, in a crowded restaurant, the impact of Grandma’s magic table seemed to live beyond her home.
It was emphasized at an early age that the most important part of Thanksgiving was being together as a family. The emphasis slowly became the legacy that my grandparents left behind. That is an inheritance that I do not think I have ever given them credit for. It’s funny how just the writing of an article can stir feelings of guilt for things left unsaid.
My Grandma Currier was a strong woman and like many from her generation, she had to be. My memories of my grandparents and the holidays we shared will continue to impact the way I think about the holiday season. This holiday season there will be many families with empty seats around their tables. Some have lost loved ones, some are trying to keep themselves safe, and for some, their tables have always been empty. Those thoughts have always haunted me over the holidays and made my childhood memories all the more special. Take time to cherish the memories and make new ones.