Friday, November 23, 2007

Passing the Torch

Sorry - I'll add the photos in later....

This year marked the 10th Thanksgiving that I have spent visiting my husband’s extended family for the holiday dinner. They live all around town, and for holidays, they traditionally gather at one aunt’s house. I remember Thanksgivings with 50 people crowded into the impromptu dining room/hall, with the heads of the families seated at the formal dining table and the rest of us happily squeezed into tables and chairs borrowed from the funeral home where one of the uncles worked. I remember when there was only one “great grandchild” and several great grandparents, and I remember the last year that my husband’s grandad, the true family patriarch, was there. That year all the grandkids (our generation) got to sit at the formal table with him.
For me, this year marked the passage of time more than any of the past years have. This year there were 8 great grandkids plus 3 more from one of the many adopted family branches that have merged in. It was the first year that the last of the great grandparents was not in good enough health to come. It was the second year since the first of our parents’ generation has passed away, but the first that his wife decided not to come alone. The past 12 months were much harder on my generation than any that I can remember, and it showed in the gathering. It was quieter, calmer, and smaller than any holiday I remember celebrating there.
When we were younger, we, the grandkids, would collect around the pool table upstairs after dinner while the older women sat in the hall or around the kitchen and the older men sat in the living room around football or car racing or whatever was on. This year, a few of the guys still found the spirit for pool…
but mostly our generation found ourselves amongst our parents, sharing in the chatter and pie. As though they heard the unspoken call that they were now the grandkids and we were the parents, some of our kids collected around the new game table that “Uncle Sean” put up for them earlier in the afternoon.
Remarkably, all of this did not make me feel old or depressed - it just made me feel right somehow. I am an adult. I have a house, a car, a job, a beautiful family, peace with God. I’ve got my own set of problems and my own ways to handle them. It felt good to know that we are all marching along with time and not being left behind or getting stuck in the past. It was a comfort to witness the unavoidable changes that come in life cast against the backdrop of familiarity- to know that we are charting our own course through life, but there are harbors to return to where we can mark our progress, find security, and know that the tethers of history and family still anchor us together.

1 comment:

Suzy said...

It did feel different this year. I hadn't thought of it that way, though, but you're totally right. Whenever the tradition of how we've always done it changes, I got sad. But from that perspective, it does feel right. You're amazing.