Holidays are often a time for family gatherings and homecomings. I am fortunate to be part of a large and extended family. When I was young, my parents would visit my mother’s parents on all of the major holidays; particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas. My grandparents lived on a farm where eleven of their twelve children were born (my aunt, Christy, was the twelfth and the only child to be born in a hospital). Six of my mother’s seven brothers served in World War II and the seventh served in the Korean Conflict. An older sister served as a nurse in the Army Air Corps. We were fortunate that all of them returned home safely at the wars’ end.
I believe that my grandmother viewed holidays as the opportunity to bring her family back together. It did not matter that she had to coordinate the logistics of preparing food for over fifty people at a time; it was a labor of love. Her daughters and daughters-in-law would bring dishes or specialties; and the grandchildren/cousins would sample them. One year, I remember gathering a healthy helping of what I presumed to be mashed potatoes only to find out that it was mashed turnips after taking my first bite. I always asked after that. After dinner, some or all of the forty plus cousins would gather for a football game or kick-the-can. We could usually count on a younger uncle or two to join us. Philosophically, I would not say that those were “the best years,” but those years have a fond place in my heart and in my memories.
Fast forward thirty years and I am married with twin daughters, Grace and Sarah. My wife, Sharon, is one of six children. Since her father retired and moved south twelve years ago, we (okay, I should not take the joint credit as Sharon does most of the work) have hosted her family at our house for Thanksgiving. Depending on college schedules, marriages, births, etc., the attendance ranges from thirty-five to forty-five people. While we do not live on a farm and there’s usually not a traditional football game, the cousins seem to value their times together as an extended family. As an adult, I find that one of my more interesting observations every year is how much my nieces and nephews have grown physically and matured since the previous gathering. I generally avoid thinking that the same is true about the adults; at least the aging part. I still learn, laugh, and share good times with my in-laws and nieces and nephews; just sometimes from a different perspective than many years ago.
Enjoy the holiday season and if you are able to find the time to visit, call, or write your family, enjoy that time as well.