On Thanksgiving and Tradition, redux

I wrote this post in 2011 and repost it every year in tribute to my mom, who passed away in February of 2013. (It has become my Thanksgiving tradition, I guess you would have to say.)

Wishing you every joy of this blessed holiday.

~~~

The past three nights I have had dreams of my mother. In each, I was the age I am now, living my current life. But her age changed—early 40s, then 80s, then some age in-between.

I know these dreams came to me because it is Thanksgiving and I will not see her. She and Dad live in a retirement community in another state, and for health reasons, no longer travel. We are staying here because it is my daughter’s first holiday from college. She needs some “home” time, and she will spend Thanksgiving day with her Dad and his family. Those grandparents, who face debilitating health challenges of their own, will be filled with joy to have her there.

It is the right decision.

Nevertheless, my mother is heavy on my mind. My dreams mark that small, tight space in which I live, wedged between aging parents and maturing children. I want more time with both, and still the demands of our lives—mine, my mother’s, my daughter’s—pull us in three radically different directions.

Here is what the dreams were about. In some pretty obvious ways, and some veiled, the situations represented traditions my mother established when we were a family of six: Mom, Dad, my three brothers and me. While “tradition” infused all aspects of our family’s life, from sports superstitions to station wagon vacations, the most vivid to me are still the holidays.

Thanksgiving at our house in Virginia was exactly the same every year. My grandmother lived next door, and my brothers rolled her wheelchair down the tiny hill that connected our yards to bring her to dinner. La-La wore fur in the cold mountain air and brought with her a green cut glass bowl of homemade cranberry sauce. She also made pineapple fritters, a treat reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mom roasted the turkey, always in a brown-n-bag (70s) which meant it could not be stuffed—a choice about which my father expressed disdain year after year after year. Still, he was the carver, and I can see him as clearly as if it were yesterday “testing” bite after juicy bite in that formica-countered, wood stain-cabineted kitchen while my mother instructed my oldest brother, Sutton, on the finer points of making giblet gravy.  (“Stir like hell!”) When we were seated, and Mom complained once again about not making the dining room big enough when they built the house in 1965, my brother Randy would ask of the table:

I wonder if next year we’ll remember asking this year if we would remember asking this last year?

 

In my family today—the one in which I am the mother—we have no such traditions. Instead, Thanksgiving is a surprise every year. In the early days I made my way back to my mother’s house, first as a single girl, then married, then divorced with a small child in tow. Then the small child learned to dance and Thanksgiving week was filled with an endless schedule of Nutcracker performances that kept us bridled to South Carolina.

 

Eliza, in blue, a Party Girl in The Nutcracker

 

I married again, bringing another branch to our beautiful, complicated family tree, and our celebrations diversified once more. I especially loved the years Tim’s mother, Dorothy, joined us for Thanksgiving. I can still see her in the kitchen, making the Monetti family’s traditional creamed onions—a novelty to me. One year, just after a break with the ballet company, we found ourselves with no Thanksgiving plans at all. Along with our dear friends, the Coles, we hopped a plane for New York City and the Macy’s parade. I ate pumpkin ravioli for Thanksgiving dinner; it was divine.

 

at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

 

And so, you see, my daughter has grown up rather traditionless. Instead, her life has been filled with a cornucopia (forgive me) of holiday celebrations. And I ask myself why it is that I now regret this? Why has this thought invaded my dreams? I think it is that space that we find ourselves in, we Mothers Squeezed Between The Generations. Guilt lurks on either end. I regret that I haven’t established the traditions of my childhood in my own home, for my daughter; I feel guilty not abandoning all for the mere opportunity to be with my parents—a remarkable blessing in itself.

And so tomorrow will come, and Eliza will head out the door toward her Ellis family. I’ll pull the big turkey from the fridge, overstuff it with dressing, and load it on my Williams Sonoma roasting pan. Then while I watch my husband carve the big bird, sneaking bites every chance he gets—I will smile and stir the giblet gravy.

I will remember, Mom, to stir like hell.

 

 

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Life, shared.

When I look over the many grace-filled moments of life, I count these among the most holy: the time spent lingering around a dining room table after a lovely dinner. Candles are burning low, a last splash of wine has been poured. Conversation flows easily, joyfully, the topics having moved to things that matter, treasured memories, dreams for the future, deeper questions of life. Inevitably there is a moment in which someone leans back and looks around in the soft light, and with no words at all acknowledges the glory of this communion.

How grateful I am for dear friends. How grateful I am for life, shared.

XXOO

Thanksgiving in the Country

How grateful I am to have a family tree that is complex and beautiful, with open arms and plenty of love to go around.

It has been one of the great lessons of my life and one that was deepened Thursday when our little clan made a long, pretty drive along South Carolina’s back roads to join the Ellis side of the family for a grand Thanksgiving celebration. It was one worthy of Garden and Gun (but with exactly zero pretense) at a centuries-old farmhouse surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful South Carolina countryside. Our hostess, Jean, whom I love like mad, filled the house and lawn with family, friends and so much good food all our bodies and our souls were nourished. It was a collection of people connected in so many diverse ways it reminded me of a constellation, bright little lights that came together to form something special.

 

house
Jean and Buck’s

 

We gave thanks, honored the grand patriarch of the family Ed Ellis, then at tables spread hither and yon through the house we caught up with loved ones from far and near and made new friends from the collection of folks gathered there.

 

dining

 

Then it was out to the fields with Jean’s husband, Buck (the most interesting man I know*) for some skeet shooting. I was thrilled with the possibility and strapped Emma’s rifle to my back even if I didn’t actually get to pull the trigger (dang shoulder surgery).

 

cathygetshergun
photo credit: Emma Ellis

 

It’s just as well. Emma out shown and outshot us all.

 

IMG_2363

 

We were walking back to the house when Jean pulled on a quiet branch above our heads and nuts rained down. They were pecans, and as I’ve never gathered or shelled the things, I ran to the house for a bag. (I hear from many that I will now spend the month of December trying to coax them from their shells.)

 

pecan

 

It was a gorgeous November day, golden in every way, my heart filled to overflowing. How blessed I am to have collected three big families in my life: my own Rigg kin; my husband’s big Italian Monetti branch; and the one that came with my first marriage, the Ellis/Suber clan that refused to let go but instead broadened its loving circle when I remarried 12 years ago.

How they’ve colored my life. How they’ve shown me–each and every member of that beautiful, extended family–what it means to love, deep and pure and with genuine hearts.

 

thankful
my sister/cousin Jean’s car tag

 

*For instance. Buck is restoring a wooden boat that once belonged to Malcomb Forbes. Swear.

 

See?
See?

Day 7: Summer’s Trinity

all local. all fresh.
dinner

 

Three reasons to love South Carolina in the summertime:

local shrimp

local corn

local tomatoes

 

 

30 Days Of Fun III

Did you have some summer fun today? Leave details in the comments below, or better yet, send a photo to cathy@thedailygrace.com. You can also post to instagram with hashtag #30DaysOfFunTDG or to my TheDailyGraceBlog Facebook page. I’d love to share it here!

Want updates? Yay!


 

Strawberry Fields Forever (I wish)

Lexington County strawberries
the taste of spring

 

I’ve been doing a little more post-surgery rehab on my shoulder, which means I have a new driving route as part of my routine. At least three times a week I now pass an unassuming little farm stand that sells buckets of just-picked, locally grown strawberries.

How happy I am I took a moment to pull over. What a delightfully sweet week this has been!

BONUS: Just came across this link from one of my faves, @CamilleStyles. Oh, yeah! ! http://camillestyles.com/summer/15-best-summery-strawberry-dessert-recipes/

 

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On Family, Thanksgiving and Tradition, re-redux

This post first appeared on thedailygrace on Thanksgiving Eve 2011. It stirs in my mind such sweet memories I repost it every year–a tradition, I guess you would have to say. Thank you for indulging me if you have read it before! I wish you every blessing of this holiday week.

The past three nights I have had dreams of my mother. In each, I was the age I am now, living my current life. But her age changed—early 40s, then 80s, then some age in-between.

I know these dreams came to me because it is Thanksgiving and I will not see her. She and Dad live in a retirement community in another state, and for health reasons, no longer travel. We are staying here because it is my daughter’s first holiday from college. She needs some “home” time, and she will spend Thanksgiving day with her Dad and his family. Those grandparents, who face debilitating health challenges of their own, will be filled with joy to have her there.

It is the right decision.

Nevertheless, my mother is heavy on my mind. My dreams mark that small, tight space in which I live, wedged between aging parents and maturing children. I want more time with both, and still the demands of our lives—mine, my mother’s, my daughter’s—pull us in three radically different directions.

Here is what the dreams were about. In some pretty obvious ways, and some veiled, the situations represented traditions my mother established when we were a family of six: Mom, Dad, my three brothers and me. While “tradition” infused all aspects of our family’s life, from sports superstitions to station wagon vacations, the most vivid to me are still the holidays.

Thanksgiving at our house in Virginia was exactly the same every year. My grandmother lived next door, and my brothers rolled her wheelchair down the tiny hill that connected our yards to bring her to dinner. La-La wore fur in the cold mountain air and brought with her a green cut glass bowl of homemade cranberry sauce. She also made pineapple fritters, a treat reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mom roasted the turkey, always in a brown-n-bag (70s) which meant it could not be stuffed—a choice about which my father expressed disdain year after year after year. Still, he was the carver, and I can see him as clearly as if it were yesterday “testing” bite after juicy bite in that formica-countered, wood stain-cabineted kitchen while my mother instructed my oldest brother, Sutton, on the finer points of making giblet gravy.  (“Stir like hell!”) When we were seated, and Mom complained once again about not making the dining room big enough when they built the house in 1965, my brother Randy would ask of the table:

I wonder if next year we’ll remember asking this year if we would remember asking if we would remember next year?

In my family today—the one in which I am the mother—we have no such traditions. Instead, Thanksgiving is a surprise every year. In the early days I made my way back to my mother’s house, first as a single girl, then married, then divorced with a small child in tow. Then the small child learned to dance and Thanksgiving week was filled with an endless schedule of Nutcracker performances that kept us bridled to South Carolina.

Eliza, in blue, a Party Girl in The Nutcracker

I married again, bringing another branch to our beautiful, complicated family tree, and our celebrations diversified once more. I especially loved the years Tim’s mother, Dorothy, joined us for Thanksgiving. I can still see her in the kitchen, making the Monetti family’s traditional creamed onions—a novelty to me. One year, just after a break with the ballet company, we found ourselves with no Thanksgiving plans at all. Along with our dear friends, the Coles, we hopped a plane for New York City and the Macy’s parade. I ate pumpkin ravioli for Thanksgiving dinner; it was divine.

at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

And so, you see, my daughter has grown up rather traditionless. Instead, her life has been filled with a cornucopia (forgive me) of holiday celebrations. And I ask myself why it is that I now regret this? Why has this thought invaded my dreams? I think it is that space that we find ourselves in, we Mothers Squeezed Between The Generations. Guilt lurks on either end. I regret that I haven’t established the traditions of my childhood in my own home, for my daughter; I feel guilty not abandoning all for the mere opportunity to be with my parents—a remarkable blessing in itself.

And so tomorrow will come, and Eliza will head out the door toward her Ellis family. I’ll pull the big turkey from the fridge, overstuff it with dressing, and load it on my Williams Sonoma roasting pan. Then while I watch my husband carve the big bird, sneaking bites every chance he gets—I will smile and stir the giblet gravy.

I will remember, Mom, to stir like hell.

 

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For Love of a Children’s Sermon

Of children’s sermons, I am a big fan. And those at Providence Presbyterian? Even better. Sweet Emily, who delivers them each week, has a remarkable gift for simplifying complicated biblical concepts and sharing them in a way that reaches most every heart—young and old—in our congregation.

Just this Sunday she said something that stuck, something I will carry with me as I make my way through this holiday week.

Instead of Thanksgiving, said Emily, let’s think of it like this:

Thanksliving.

How I love the sound of that.

 

lasauls-859790183277119248_228816648
A little Thanksliving.
My friend, Lila Anna, gets a little cooking help from one of her five sons, Graeme.

waiting for leon

We went to bed Monday night with a most assured forecast for significant snow, a rarity here in the Midlands of South Carolina. Needless to say the excitement had been building for days; snow was the primary topic of conversation everywhere. Events were being cancelled right and left—Leon (when did they start naming snow storms?) would arrive around 11 am Tuesday, start as sleet/freezing rain, change to snow, then shower all afternoon, evening, and night, with a good chance for continued flurries until lunchtime on Wednesday.

Oh boy!

I made a list of all the supplies I needed to make it through the winter storm.

  • firewood (plenty on hand)
  • knitting yarn
  • birdseed
  • Gosling’s black rum and ginger beer and lime*

I got up early Tuesday and rushed around town like a woman crazed. By noon I was back home and ready—bird feeders filled, a big fire blazing, and my eyes turned toward the winter sky.

I waited. And watched. And waited. And watched. And as darkness approached, exactly no snow had fallen here on Bickley’s Pond.

~~~~~~

I’m not casting stones at the forecasters here, may I be clear about that? I can’t imagine trying to predict the weather, even more so now that the demand is for a detailed hour-by-hour schedule days in advance. My point is merely that I looked out the window a thousand times that day, sure we were mere minutes away from that most profound and beautiful of nature’s weather tricks—snow falling, with all its soul-calming powers.

~~~~~~

Storm Leon did eventually arrive, something I am rather sure you already know. It started long after dark, and ended long before sunrise. That means we awoke to the pretty albeit temporary scene of a white blanketed (pardon the cliche) world.

We just never saw a single flake fall.

~~~~~~

There is a 32 percent chance of snow each year in Columbia, South Carolina, according to the State Climatology office. That means it’ll be another three years before the odds are in our favor to get more snow, the way I figure it. Therefore I’d like to put out there for anyone who wants to jump on my snow bandwagon:

LET’S NOT COUNT THIS ONE.

(Who’s with me?)

Let’s hold out for another snowstorm this year, one that arrives in the daylight so we can actually experience the magic and wonder of the snow as it falls.

Let’s pray for a snow miracle!

*Dark and Stormy fixin’s. Details to come.

Being Resolutionless

When the ball dropped and the champagne flutes clinked and the lovers kissed and the calendar clicked over to 2014—signaling that greatest of “do-over” opportunities, a brand new year—I missed it all. I was in bed with the covers over my head, so sick with the flu the best I could do was try to make it through the next five minutes.

It. Was. Awful.

And that is how I find myself here, now, without a single New Year’s resolution.

It’s the thought that was on my mind when I woke up Saturday morning, looked out at the lazy, rainy morning and wondered what I might have on the Okay, it’s January agenda. Without a “get serious about exercise” or a “drink more water, for real this time” or an “okay, now about those carbs” in sight, I decided to create a new kind of resolution list, one designed purely to up my happy quotient. Here goes.

  1. Cook more in Mom’s cast iron skillet.
  2. Hang out with friends.
  3. Buy presents, just because.
  4. Burn the candles.
  5. Make things.
  6. Play outside.
  7. Laugh. Out loud.

I think it’s a good list, don’t you? A happy list. A list of resolutions that, for the first time in my life, I might actually keep.

To which I must say: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! And happy 2014 to you!