Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!



View of Field from Route 20, 2006, Oil on Panel. 24x36




Something about having this blog makes me write about the whole history of my life, especially when a holiday rolls around. So here is my lament about Thanksgiving and the truce I have made with it in recent years. And an image of a recent painting that has no connection to any of that whatsoever.

I don't have any specific recollections of Thanksgiving dinners as a kid. I am sure we had a few family dinners at least, but I have a very small extended family and for whatever reason, the past holidays are not very memorable to me. When I was a teen I spent a few years living with a friend of mine and boy, did her family celebrate Thanksgiving! She had a huge family, with many aunts and uncles and cousins. Everyone gathered at her grandmother's tiny little brown house and I bet there were fifty people at every holiday meal, all of the tables were extended and every card table in sight was used. It was all very traditional. The women cooked and cleaned up after, while the men sat, smoked, belched and watched football. And the food! Tons of it-all dripping with animal derived saturated fat! I loved it. But the best part was just hanging around and playing cards and other games before and after the dinner. I was treated as if I belonged to their family, complete with teasing insults and a place at the adult table.

In college I never went home for the holidays, as I usually couldn't afford the travel expenses. So I spent most of those Thanksgivings at Dirty Franks in Philadelphia. The bar was always open on the holidays and it was a wonderful place for all of us lonely pathetic types. I met some of the most interesting people on those nights and the environment was perfect for an artist who thought she needed that lifestyle in order to be a true artist. heh. Those were my melodramatic years.

When I met Doug I thought that that would be my chance to celebrate the holidays with a big loving family, all happy to see each other on Thanksgiving and Christmas and Passover (Doug is Jewish. I am not). Alas, it was not to be. While Doug had a large family when he was a kid and they had great holiday celebrations, by the time I met him the dynamics had completely changed. His family was smaller and had become a bit fractured (it was almost exactly like the movie Avalon, if you have ever seen that). Anyway, I spent several torturous Thanksgiving meals with his dad (who I loved and enjoyed) and evil stepmother and her family. The stepmother filled the day with passive aggressive manipulations and by the end of the day I didn't know if I was coming or going. She also was into plastic surgery and so every time I saw her she looked different, which was really disturbing. The food was also scary. Dry and overcooked (she had a tendency to microwave everything after cooking it in the oven) and unrecognizable. One year we were late because of a bad snowstorm and by the time we had arrived (about 2 hours late), they had already eaten and cleaned up everything. It was like there had never had been a dinner at all. That was the last time we went there, because we moved to Utah soon after and then Doug's father died the next year.

In Utah, the holidays were really really hard at first. We both felt so sad for many years that, for a variety of reasons, we were unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with anyone in either of our families. But we made lots of babies and pretty soon we had our own respectable sized crowd (six!) for a good holiday party. And finally now, I love that Thanksgiving is just our day together. Doug and I quibble every year about what size the turkey should be and where the roaster is and which plate did we use last year for the bread. We cook a very traditional Thanksgiving meal, with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas and, rolls and pumpkin pie. I do all of the baking the day before, he does the turkey and potatoes and I make the stuffing. We put a nice tablecloth on the dining room table, use cloth napkins, light the candles and the kids get to drink sparking cider from the good wine glasses. The kids laugh, help, whine, argue, and insult each other at dinner, but no food is thrown on this day, and we all talk about what we are thankful for.

It's perfect.

9 comments:

meno said...

Lovely, Tracy. Happy Thanksgiving. I'm glad you found the right crowd to celebrate with.

Tracy said...

Thanks, Meno. Hope you have a nice day too. And why are you trolling the internet today:-)? Oh, wait, I am too...

KJ said...

Good post, Tracy. You're building terrific traditions... can't give the kids any better than that! KJ

Mom said...

...and just think Tracy, in a few more years the kids will be bringing their girlfriends and boyfriends to the Holiday table!!
THAT will be interesting!

Lauren said...

Being an Aussie we don't have thanksgiving.. it's kind of a weird thing for me to get, it's like a small Christmas before Christmas really isn't it?

Anonymous said...

We don't have thanksgiving either ... either here in New Zealand or 'back home' in UK. But really every country should have it ... the importance of tradition, family. past and present are universal.

Thank you for this wonderful post, Tracy, and it brought tears to my eyes. So scattered is my family and yet how lucky am I.

Tracy said...

Karen, I am glad that we are putting together our own traditions, and the kids seem to love it as well.

Mom, don't think THAT hasn't crossed my mind! I think I am looking forward to it though. Mostly:-)

Lauren, It is a nice family holiday-and without the politics and stress of gifts, which is one of the things I like about Thanksgiving. No one expects a gift:-)

Thanks, Lesly. You're so sweet. And it would be nice if Thanksgiving (or something like it) were celebrated everywhere.

Johnnie Scoutten said...

Ah.... you are blessed. With family and traditions of your own. Glad you celebrate!

Lauren said...

ohhh I like the idea of a christmas without gifts, that would be wonderful.