Thanksgiving was many things during my childhood; I remember my brothers and sisters and their spouses coming, filling the old house on Westwood Lane with laughter and stories as Mom busily cooked in the kitchen. They poured through the photos in the two metal tins, reliving their own childhoods through the treasured family photos. I came along so much later than they did that I always felt on the periphery, apart from that family history. There were funny memories, too; Mom set the turkey on fire one year…I am truly my mother’s daughter.
Once my siblings had families of their own and ended up living farther away, Mom and I would drive to Gainesville for Thanksgiving with my beloved Aunt Sara (Mom’s oldest sister) and the Taylor clan. I loved those trips; the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen, my cousins’ banter, my mom telling stories with her sister and laughing as they put fresh sheets on the guest beds. After dinner, we’d all head to the living room where my cousins would perform Bluegrass music for us. I felt such joy being a part of their jovial, close-knit family.
When my aunt and uncle moved to Iowa for a while, Mom and I began a new tradition. Instead of shopping for and cooking a big feast for just the two of us, Mom decided that we would have our Thanksgiving meal at The Piccadilly Restaurant. We would go through the cafeteria-style line, choosing our meal items, sitting at a table with a white tablecloth. I remember getting dressed up, riding in Mom’s old white Plymouth, her saying the blessing, and finishing the meal with my favorite chocolate cream pie (Mom would have pecan pie). Afterwards we would go to see a movie together – the original Star Wars being my favorite.
I love that even though we lost the big family meal tradition for a while, Mom made a point to make the day something special for us. She did that for each and every holiday; no matter how little money she had she always found a way. I love that in later years I was able to bring her to my home and serve her wonderful meals while she sat by the fire and enjoyed being waited on hand and foot.
It took the smallest thing this morning to trigger me; a commercial for the old Frosty the Snowman Christmas special came on and suddenly my eyes welled up with tears, my childhood flooding back into my mind’s eye- and along with it, grief for my mother. I know the holidays will always be tough without my mom- memories of her are wound so tightly around every memory and expectation of what holidays should be.
This afternoon we went to our dear friend Wayne’s lovely home for a Thanksgiving dinner, the place where Mom joined us to spend her last few Thanksgivings. as we sat around the table enjoying an amazing meal with friends, I felt Mom with us, heard her adorable giggle, felt wrapped in her love. She is gone, but the echoes of her love continue on and on. She taught me how to live a life filled with gratitude, celebrating holidays small and large, celebrating life. I am nothing but grateful.