Sunday, November 18, 2012

Turkey or Ham

This year, the media is filled with the great debate of the Thanksgiving season; turkey or ham? It is everywhere you look, even in the Sunday comics this week. It is almost like the election was not held last week and that we are still in the middle of the political crazies. I am not one to get into the middle of a political debate but I will weigh in on this one. While I really like ham, for me and my family, we are all about tradition, so turkey it is.

In fact, for my family, turkey was the main course for both our Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings every year. Turkey, dressing, rice and giblet gravy, beans, squash, corn are just the kickers for the family feast. There were at least two pies for dessert, apple and pumpkin, and on most occasions, my favorite, a cherry pie made from my grandmother’s recipe. Our “ham” gathering was Easter along with beans, potato salad (usually the first one of the year) and the other usual sides.

During the heyday, the gatherings numbered usually into the 30s and occasionally the 40s. It was a great time for overeating and visiting with aunts, uncles and cousins and eventually their spouses and kids. After dinner, the kids would all run around crazy playing catch with a football, or batting a badminton birdie around, while the older folks sat around talking and letting the l-tryptophan wear off.

Alas, the family tradition has for the most part faded into the mists of time, falling victim to the demands of the in-law family’s traditions, distance, economic times and age. Now my generation has built new holiday traditions, but this time of year, I always grow nostalgic for those big wild crazy gatherings of my youth. As a kid I never could understand how the grownups could waste all this quality family play time on sitting and talking. Now, I can’t understand how the kids could waste all this quality talk time. In my mind’s eye, I can still see my cousins as young teen-agers full of life and promise with sunlight in their hair and a sparkle in their eyes. As twenty-somethings, we were back from college and the Navy and the sharing of experiences was taking over as we tossed the football with a little less emphasis on the accuracy and distance of the throw and a little more on the conversation. In our thirties and forties, we were fully on the sidelines, watching the next generation romp in the yard; life was in its fullness.

The part of my family that remains in Jacksonville, my home town, still continues the tradition of the holiday gatherings but they are a pale comparison to the tribal gatherings of yore. But those big family Thanksgiving dinners will live on in the hearts and memories of us all, no matter where we are. Oh MY!

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