November 26, 2008

Tradition's End

Mme. Piggy has a post up mourning the--hopefully temporary--loss of a Thanksgiving tradition. It resonated with me in a way it might not have any other year. This year marks the end of a tradition for us as well.

For me, Thanksgiving has always meant my grandparents, my mother's parents. They were the in-town grandparents when I was young, and Thanksgiving was always at their house. (We lived in another state for a few years, but I don't remember those Thanksgivings.)

Things changed, of course: more leaves in the table as more kids came, a kids table when we became too many, a shift to early Thanksgiving when my grandparents became snowbirds, adult grandchildren bringing dates. But my grandparents were the constant.

There was a brief break in tradition when my grandparents shifted to a longer snowbird schedule. We had to choose between early Thanksgiving and celebrating the fall birthdays. The birthdays won, and Ben and I started hosting Thanksgiving in our new house.

Hosting was much more convenient for us. It allowed us to combine family obligations from both sides in one place, and our kitchen is much more able to cope with preparation for a feast. Still, it felt wrong without my grandparents, like a fake holiday, like we were playing house while the grownups were away.

Then they sold their place in Arizona and started coming to our house for Thanksgiving and all was well again. Sure, my grandpa keeps thanking me for all the good food as though my husband doesn't grill the turkeys and make gravy and as though no one else brings anything to share (instead of him being the only one), but there are some things that aren't worth trying to change. We had a tradition going. “Over the river and through the hood to Steph and Ben's house....”

Then there's this year.

During the fall birthday celebration, my grandmother started hinting about how they don't get around so well anymore and how it's so nice that everyone else comes to them and maybe Thanksgiving? I changed the subject.

She called a couple weeks later to make the suggestion explicitly. I put her off until after the election.

I knew then we'd go, and we will. Tomorrow, we'll pack up a ridiculous amount of food and cooking gear and carefully coordinate the use of a tiny kitchen. It'll be tricky, but we'll manage.

Much harder will be facing what the end of the tradition means. My grandparents are both in their nineties now, and neither is as hale as they once were. It won't be that long before the feast moves back to our place.

But will it be Thanksgiving without my grandparents?

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