Thanksgiving and Nostalgia

Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of moments to express gratitude and chances to relax and enjoy family!  Some of you may have even been able to get some Christmas shopping done this weekend, courtesy of the sales that always show up Thanksgiving weekend.

Much of my Thanksgiving weekend was spent reliving memories of Thanksgivings past.

A little bit of background – we lost my Grandma Redfield (my mom’s mom) this September.  She was my last surviving grandparent and her house was the scene of numerous family holiday get-togethers.  Her health had been failing for some time so her passing wasn’t entirely unexpected; doesn’t make me miss her any less and this was especially pronounced over the holiday weekend.

Earlier this year, my mom and her brother began sorting through Grandma’s things and giving much of it away to family for the purpose of renting out her house and providing funds to help provide for her care (she was living in a nursing home).  As a part of this process, my sisters, cousins, and I were given chances to request certain items from the house that we would like to have.  Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be any conflict over any of the requests – Praise God for small favors! – and one of the things I received was a set of dishes.  No big deal, right?  You set the table with them and you eat off of them.  But these dishes are so much more than that to me.

Grandma purchased these dishes from a neighbor.  This neighbor and her husband had actually bought the farmhouse my Grandparents lived in for quite some time.  When Grandpa stopped farming, they moved to the house my uncle had built right next door.  The new residents of the farmhouse turned the old milk barn into a cute little store that sold stoneware dish sets.  Grandma took me over there with her one day and asked me to help her pick out a set.  I happily agreed and she bought a set of dinner plates.  Over time she added some pitchers, bowls, dessert plates, a meat platter, serving dishes . . . you get the idea!  She didn’t use those dishes all the time but they definitely came out at the holidays.  Every time I saw that familiar pattern on the table at Thanksgiving or Christmas I felt just a little bit special.  After all, I had helped pick out those dishes and they were considered special enough to be used on special occasions!  Do you understand now why I requested those dishes when I was given the opportunity to do so?!

And can you guess which dishes graced my table this Thanksgiving?  When it came time to clean up from the meal I shooed the entire family away and told them I would handle the clean up myself (with the one exception of allowing hubby to help put away the leftovers!).  I needed some time alone with the memories.  As I carefully washed each of those precious pieces, I flashed back to a kitchen crowded with Grandma, my mom, my aunt and all six of the cousins as we were all called upon, after each holiday meal, to help clear the table, take care of leftovers and see that the dishes got washed, dried, and put away.  As a teenager, that kitchen was uncomfortably crowded and I really didn’t want to spend my holiday doing dishes.  Now I would give anything for one more chance to stand in a kitchen with those women and share the responsibility of cleaning up as well as share the stories of our lives.

As an extra-added little touch of nostalgia, I found out on Thanksgiving that my mom and dad had headed to Ludington, MI – about four hours from where they live in Battle Creek – because my aunt and uncle were going to be celebrating Thanksgiving at their oldest daughter’s home.  It was the first time in 12 years that my mom got to spend a holiday with her brother!!

My extended family was much on my mind this weekend.  My sisters, cousins, and I have moved to various places across the country – Michigan, Iowa, Texas, and Pennsylvania to be specific!  – so face to face get-togethers are rare.  But I’ve been able to keep track of what’s going on with all of them at least a little bit and our chance to chat at Grandma’s funeral was precious to me.  I love hearing what is going on in their lives and love them all dearly.  What I wouldn’t give to do just one more puzzle with my aunt, my cousins, my mom and my sisters.  It was a holiday tradition that we rarely missed.  We almost always finished the puzzle but that wasn’t the really important part.  It was always the time that we “women” caught up with each other. When we were kids, my cousins and I would use the great desk Grandma and Grandpa had to play “office”.  We always made the two youngest be the receptionists.  We told them it was their job to answer the phone and that we would let them know when it rang.  It never did but it took the two of them quite some time to figure out that we were tricking them!

I’m proud of the heritage I’ve been given by my parents and grandparents.  Are they perfect?  No.  Which basically makes them normal!  But I’ve learned about the importance of being involved in my community, the value of investing in young people and my local church and so many other things.  My grandparents were a small town couple who raised two kids, had six grand-daughters and, at current count, have 13 great-grandchildren.  They never made headlines or changed the world.  But they made sure that their extended family had a place to gather and stay in touch.  They opened their hearts (and their home!) to their family, their community, and their church and I’m a better person for having known them so well.

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