Sunday, December 01, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 Reflections

I can seldom remember a four-day weekend where I've experienced as much NEEDED relaxation, comfort and reflection as this one.  Ironically, we didn't leave town, but elected to have a very quiet and small, almost tiny, celebration here at home with just the three of us.  Bob, Emmy and myself.  We thought about just going out to dinner at a restaurant, but decided to go ahead and cook the whole traditional dinner, though in lesser quantities than usual.  It worked out very well, but it led me to reflect on Thanksgivings past where we had many more family members present, and more family dysfunction, but also more of a feeling of being part of an extended family that we all really miss.

When I was growing up, we went to my maternal Great Grandma's house - it was a large house FULL to the brim with my two brothers, our parents, grandparents, many cousins, aunts and uncles . . . . many of them probably inwardly feuding, but still present, which was the most important thing.  Though I often look upon my past with nostalgia, I am also a realist enough to know that my family, like most were really dysfunctional in many ways and weren't anything like the old 1970's Walton's TV show.  Even from afar, I can recall that there was a lot of family tension, brooding hurt feelings, resentments, disappointments as well as joy, bonding, family ties  . . . . but most of all there was a part of belonging to a family in a way that I haven't experienced in a long, long time.  Part of the new reality is that many of our relatives have moved to far-flung places, and many have passed away  . . . . even one of my brothers died five years ago at a very young age and the other, lost to me in a way that gives me twinges of regret . . . . but helplessness.  Very sad.  This feeling of disconnect is probably largely because we've gone into our own little "family unit" and haven't kept up with the cousins and close family friends who we've managed to lose touch with.    Part of the problem, too, though is from smaller families. As the older ones pass away, the middle aged and young ones don't have as many loved ones to hold onto.

Bob and I have both said, in retrospect, that we wished we could have had more than just one child so that Emmy wouldn't feel as alone and would have brothers and sisters to give her a sense of family.  With only children, no matter who well-intentioned you try to be, there's a triangle relationship that always feels a bit "off kilter." 

But at any rate, this looking back hasn't been all maudlin as I'm painting it. As I said, the weekend was relaxing and gave me a chance to veg out, sleep, read and get my energy level back and my head on straight. 

A few weeks ago, we went to St. Louis and visited Bob's Aunt Eve whom we just love so much and admire the way that she has kept up with her own large family and kept them all together with that sense of HOMEPLACE no matter how far her four children travel or move.  They still are close and part of her.  The photo at the top of the blog entry is a photo of one of the dressers in the guest room where we stay when we go there.  The whole top of the two dressers in that room and just covered with family photos of all her kids, grandkids, friends and extended family.  It warms my heart every single time we come there.  I feel warmth and love, and it radiates onto us. 

Someday, even though I have only one grown child . . . . . . is she really going to be 22 in a couple of weeks?  Shesh, but I do hope that she manages to find a life partner who is part of a BIG, happy or unhappy, but thriving and growing family that manages to get together each year for Thanksgiving no matter what else is going on.  And if she manages to have that family, in whatever way she accomplishes it, I will BE THERE, cooking, cleaning up, and experiencing that family in whatever way I can.  Not from afar, but across the table.

And if I still have a house myself when that happens, I hope to have a place on my own dresser to place many photos that other generations can remember and enjoy. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

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