Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

Childhood memories are powerful things.

Every Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think of my childhood. As far back as I can remember, my mother, sister, and I spent Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas at my grandmother’s house, but the Thanksgiving celebrations were the most spirited.

My mother and her two sisters (their brother had died before I could meet him) would help Grandma in the kitchen while more than a dozen of us grandchildren caught up with each other and cut up–laughing, playing, and comparing notes from the last time we were all together.

We grouped ourselves by age range as there was a span of 15, maybe 18 years between the youngest and the oldest of us.  I remember my days sitting at the “kids” table. My group would complain about the indignity but in reality we were glad we didn’t have to sit with the grownups. We were in our own world talking, or yelling, about serious and silly matters, our etiquette careless, slovenly, and uncriticized.

I remember the food: collard greens, cornbread, turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, biscuits,  apple cider, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato pie. There was nothing else beyond this and our family that day.

There was one year when my age mates were about 9, 10, 11 years old that we met a “new” cousin for the first time. He was our age, born from a complicated union slightly outside of our circle, blood kin to some of us but not all of us. But we decided to consider him our cousin anyway, a dubious honor. He was nice and did his best to fit in even though he hardly knew us and didn’t speak our insider’s language. We saw him maybe one other time after that and I haven’t seen him since.

Soon, the older cousins started having children and the gatherings got even bigger and louder.  The age groups continued to set themselves apart from each other. Although we were no longer the youngest, my group never graduated to the grown up table. Too cool for school, we teenagers always chose to eat somewhere off on our own.

The years went by and one Thanksgiving I brought  my soon-to-be husband to the fray for dinner and scrutiny. But ultimately, as was our way, he was welcomed, as family to one of us was family to us all.

Not long after, my grandmother became too frail to host these holiday dinners. She became an invalid and the family rallied around caring for her in her home. When she died, the glue that held us together lost its strength. The entire family is rarely in the same place together any more. We celebrate holidays, or not, within our immediate families. Sometimes we all get together at weddings, and increasingly over the years, at funerals.

My daughter has moved out of state, so I’ll cook Thanksgiving dinner with my son and my mom. As I fuss over the turkey,  I will think of my grandmother.

Childhood memories are powerful things, always the last to go.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2012


Comments on: "Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past" (46)

  1. I have never been to a Thanksgiving celebration. My sister has a friend who celebrates it and she has been to a Thanksgiving dinner and she says it is one of the best meals she has ever had!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you Adrienne! 🙂

    • Thanks, Hajra! I’m not into the traditional meaning of Thanksgiving, but for me it means drawing the family together. Thanksgiving meals are great because each culture puts their own spin on the turkey and stuffing theme. Maybe I’ll have you over one year! ;p

  2. I moved to South Africa a few years ago and I tell you, I do miss the traditions of Thanksgiving! I wish I could replcate it here but even finding things like cranberries and turkey ar every difficult. And the family here just does not value the concept…so I do miss this holiday greatly…but the memories do remain!

  3. I loved reading this. We don’t have Thanksgiving in Brazil, and I haven’t really celebrated one in many years, so this was a joy to read…beautiful, perfect pie, too!

  4. This was beautiful! Have a very happy Thanksgiving Adriene!

  5. Adriene, I loved accompanying you down Memory Lane! Indeed, memories can be extremely powerful. I don’t know where I’d be without mine. It sounds like Thanksgiving was such a wonderful sharing time for you and your family. Sadly, this isn’t always the case for everyone. I too have beautiful memories of this holiday. Food and family were and are the protagonists! I’m looking forward to having the Son help me with the cooking this year. We’re having guests over and with my knee as bad as it is, I’m afraid I’m partly out of commission! hee hee! No worries though, since it will give me the chance to cook alongside him. Happy Thanksgiving, lady! 🙂

    • Thank so much, Bella. I’m thankful I had that time in my life. My children didn’t get to experience that the way I did. I think It’s great you son will help you in the kitchen. Get better soon and have a great Thanksgiving!

  6. Good memories. Our children’s table never had more than 8. This year, my octogenarian parents are driving here and so is younger brother’s family while the elder brother’s gathers in Ohio to witness the birth of a new baby. Very exciting to become a great aunt! My childhood memories are good enough to be the last to go . . .

  7. I particularly love the line “as family to one of us was family to us all.” If only the whole world saw it that way! Thank you for the Thanksgiving memories. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday this year.

  8. I’m thankful for you this Thanksgiving! This is a beautifully written reminder of the days before Black Friday overtook the US. There aren’t as many cousins anymore either.

    • Thank you so much! Yes, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are practically holidays in their own right. You’re right about the cousin situation. I guess that’s why kids these days need play dates! 😉

  9. Adriene, what a heartwarming story! I can remember spending holidays with my mother’s side of the family, enjoying food to no end and time with all of my cousins. Funny how those memories last forever. It’s been years since I have done that as now I have my own family that we get together here at home. But, I still try to get back to PA once a year (usually during the summer when the weather is nice) to expose my children to that atmosphere. They enjoy meeting up with my cousins children and have made some long lasting relationships.
    Thanks for sharing your story. I really enjoyed it as you took me down my own memory lane ♥ ♥ ♥

    • Hi, Mary! That’s great that your children get to experience these types of holiday gatherings.My children got to experience that a little on their father’s side but not mine, unfortunately. I’m so glad you stopped by. Happy Thanksgiving! xox

  10. Oh, what a powerful memoir, Adriene! Thank you for sharing these beautiful Thanksgiving memories with us. It brought back so many of mine . . .

  11. galenpearl said:

    What a wonderful post. My nuclear family was small, but my extended family was huge and we all got together every Thanksgiving when I was growing up. I was one of five cousins born in the same year, so I had lots of playmates. Thanks for reminding me of these memories.

  12. thank you for sharing a bit of your holiday festivities… Oh my… this is so true: “Childhood memories are powerful things, always the last to go.” Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Nicely written! such memories keep us thankful for the great gift of life!

  14. May I just say that I envy you (a bit) for having such beautiful memories? That’s because I am coming from a dysfunctional family where children’s needs were given no consideration at all. The good thing is that I can create my own memories now!

    • I wonder if there are any purely “functional” families, Muriel. My family certainly had a fair amount of dysfunction, we just had some great Thanksgivings! 😉 But I do think that we have an opportunity for a do over when we become adults. And I am happy to hear that you are making good use of that opportunity. ❤

  15. We do not have Thanksgiving here. But I know I have had these huge family get together where everybody would be present.Those are memories will remain etched in my mind . Times have changed everywhere and we rarely have such large gatherings except for weddings. But those childhood memories remain fresh in our minds. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend and thank you sharing this post.


    • Indeed, Rimly. For me, the point of celebrating Thanksgiving is to bond with the people who are close to you, and I think that is the point for so many celebrations. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and for the well wishes! ❤

  16. tumultuousjourney said:

    What wonderful memories you have shared with us. thank you for the happy and warm thoughts of your Thanksgivings past. Can I borrow your memries as a mood setter for the net month or so…lol Love to you and thank you for sharing this.

  17. lovely SJ, memories keep us strong and going…hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

  18. Oh, how things change! I’m still used to large Thanksgiving celebrations — big gatherings for any holiday, actually. Nevertheless, we’ve had to split up occasions because parties became too big! And things are definitely different in Peru where Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated at all, where there are still big gatherings but of people that I’m less close to. I guess life’s all about these changes and memories. =)

  19. This evoked powerful memories for me. I have felt this way – the glue being undone and undoing my core family – since losing my dad. It’s an odd feeling and one that haunts me all the time.

  20. Dear Adriene,

    Thank you so much for sharing this poignant post — I can relate to all of it! 2012 was my first Thanksgiving EVER with just my boyfriend and me. Although I have fond memories of all different kinds of big family Thanksgivings from the past, it was a sweet & romantic event to share together this time.

    I’m grateful to be getting to know you better through our cyber-communities! Thank you for reaching out to me 😉

  21. Thank you for sharing your sweet memories. Unfortunately it ended the same way most do when the hub of the family dies…with families becoming distant, leaving memories to keep us company on the holidays. Your writing is beautiful. Big Thanksgiving hugs!

  22. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in India, Adrienne, but your post reminded me so much of Christmases past. The same ‘childrens’ table’ at my grandparents home – so much of fun and laughter – good food. Like your family, ours too centered around the grandparents. When they passed – so did these traditions. Thanks for bringing back lovely memories.

    • My pleasure,Corinne. For me the name an meaning of the holiday was secondary. The main thing was the gathering of the family. I’m learning more and more how on person’s experiences are shared universally in some way or another!

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