There is plenty to be thankful for this year. My brother's wedding is this weekend. There's a new baby on the way. Another brother is flying in tonight. And there are plenty of surprises and good times to be had in the week to come.
Yet, in our Thanksgiving universe, things are changing. Every year for at least twenty-five years we've gone to Mr. Celia's family for Thanksgiving. This is the family portrait from twenty years ago.
That's Mr. Celia and me in the upper left. The little girl in the pink dress is our Girlie and the thumbsucking baby in red is our Boyo. He's sitting on Mr. Celia's Mom's lap, Mr. Celia's Dear Departed Dad is at the lower left and the little boy in blue is the father of our two grandnephews. My, my how times have changed.
Mr. Celia's Mom has always owned our Thanksgiving. After the Girlie's first Christmas, when we spent Christmas morning with my family and then drove a grueling four hours to Mr. Celia's family Christmas dinner, I put my foot down. "We're not doin' this next year," I said. "Children should be able to spend Christmas Day in their own house. They should be able to play with their new toys, stay in their pajamas and slippers, and relax." And from then on, we have stayed home, had a leisurely Christmas morning and every other year we have traded hosting the dinner with my sister. Then we would go down to Mr. Celia's family a day or two after, trying always to be there for Mr. Celia's Dad's birthday on the 27th. Twenty-five years, ago after I put my foot down, Mr. Celia's Mom put hers down, too. She said, "Well, if you're not going to be here on Christmas, can I at least have Thanksgiving?" And ever since then she has owned it.
Thanksgiving has always been the big annual family gathering for Clan Mr. Celia. And it has always been held at Mr. Celia's Mom's house, with her getting up in the wee hours to put the turkey in the oven so we could eat a noontime dinner. I would always bake pies and make cranberry relish (I could never, ever get used to that canned stuff!) the day before. Mr. Celia would get up early to help his mom, and watch the kids while I slept in. How wonderful to wake up to the delicious aromas of the cooking dinner!
It's funny, for years I chafed that we always HAD to go down to Grandmother's House for Thanksgiving and I romanticised Thanksgiving with my own family. And one year (I believe it was in 1993), when I was in my senior year at Cal and had a TON of papers to write, I stayed home and had Thanksgiving dinner with my family, while Mr. Celia took the kids to his family's dinner. That year, I missed everyone so much (and the reality with my family was not nearly as romantic as I'd remembered), that I stopped chafing and started to really look forward to the tradition we'd developed and I've really enjoyed Thanksgiving with abandon ever since. There's little pressure - Mr. Celia's family is really always more interested in what's going on with him and the kids - so I can really focus on relaxing for a few days and I've grown to appreciate and love them all for who they are.
And yet, as I said before, our Thanksgiving universe is changing. It appears that Thanksgiving 2005 was the last one owned by Mr. Celia's Mom. She suffered a "little" stroke in early December, which greatly affected her ability to take care of herself. She moved in with Mr. Celia's Brother and his wife, who took really good care of her, but that 24/7 thing gets overwhelming after several months and finally, in August, Mr. Celia and his brother made the decision to move her to an assisted care facility. She has been struggling with that adjustment ever since.
This year we will begin to develop a new Thanksgiving tradition as the ownership of the holiday passes to my generation. Mr. Celia's Brother and his wife will host a (gasp) evening dinner. The two brothers and their cousin will have lunch with Mr. Celia's Mom at her new domicile and the rest of us will try to spread out our visits so as not to overwhelm her or interfere with the routine that holds things together for her.
I hear we're going to have a traditional turkey and (gasp) barbequed salmon. I, as always, will bring the pies, although I'm thinking of tinkering with the recipies a little bit, based on my experience with the wheatless, natural-foods baking I've been experimenting with for the wedding. And, of course, I'll make the traditional cranberry relish. Seems like they rely upon it now. I own that part of the Thanksgiving tradition.