Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Fifth Free Thanksgiving

I'm cheating a little. I'm writing this on Wednesday the 25th of November. I'm a bit early, but tomorrow will be busy and I won't have time to write my thoughts down. Enjoy the ride, if you so choose.

For the first time in my life, I will not be having Thanksgiving dinner at anyone else' home. With the help of those I love and cherish, Home South will be where this year's dinner will be served.  This is an occasion, to say the least. So while I beam over that fact, let me tell you a story about nuts. 

Growing up, Thanksgiving was still a pretty crazy time of year. We always hosted, and I mean always. My mother would get the turkey in the oven at an ungodly hour, and as I remember it the damned thing was always in the neighborhood of 25 pounds. (It probably wasn't, but that's how my brain remembers it, so I'm going with it, okay?) There was the mashed potatoes (I actually remember adding the milk and stopping exactly when my mother told me to) and the carrots (not whipped, but mashed in a consistently coarse manner I don't think I recall experiencing anywhere else), and the yams (sweet potatoes), and the stuffing (oh, the stuffing!), and all the other fixin's. It was a pretty typical spread, I suppose, but it was OURS. There was football and the usual familial back and forth, and pickles, and olives (my father ate too many of them), and the bowl of mixed nuts in the shell. Walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, filberts, and pecans awaited their demise in the nutcracker. We used a heavy crystal for a long time, then it changed to a thin wooden salad bowl that I think she still must have somewhere, I'm sure.

As I age, I begin to believe that it was not the spread that I liked best about Thanksgiving dinner - it was the nuts. We always had them, and I seem to think that we had them for Christmas as well, but they were SUCH a part of the Thanksgiving season. To be honest, I think my mom might have just saved the nuts left over from Thanksgiving and served them at Christmas dinner! But why, you may ask, is a bowl of nuts so important to my memory?

I don't know.

If you've cracked nuts in a cheap silver handheld nutcracker, you might understand my nostalgia. There is a satisfying <CRACK> when the shell gives way and reveals the delicious bits inside. If you never cracked nuts, I suggest you try for yourself. It's a lot of fun to pick the freshly-roasted meats out of the remains of the shell - especially filberts! Yummy!

When I was a child, I connected mixed nuts with the richness of life. Maybe they were something I considered exotic. I'm not sure, but I do know that I felt rich when I reached into the seemingly endless bowl and pulled out one after another, cracked them, and ate the delicacy I found inside. They are tied forever to my holiday.

Funnily enough, as much a part of the season that they might be to me, I can not have them at OUR hosting of dinner. One of my partners is deathly allergic to tree nuts, so the bowl shall remain empty forever. I'm sure she'd tell me to just go ahead and have them, that she won't touch them or go near them. But you know, the memory is really what's important. I say that a lot to people who attach themselves to things rather than memories. Things can be lost, or destroyed, or stolen, or any of a million other possibilities, but memories are yours for as long as you can remember them.  Only time, the giver of wisdom, can take memories from you. I've come to recognize that more than anything, I cherish the sharing of the stories around the holidays. I enjoy listening to how my family remembers events in a slightly different way from each other and from my own recollections. I enjoy sitting around with my ever-shrinking family and remembering collectively.

I see this same thing with my additional family members - the ones I inherited from my loves. Grandparents, aunts, siblings, cousins, and all manner of family new to my life in these past 5 years, but each a new source of stories and laughter and shared joy.  I remember those I've lost, both in the distant and not-so-distant past. Their stories will make their way around the table this year for sure, I'll see to that.

To all my friends, family, and loved ones: May your hearts be full, your tables be beautiful, and may love shine on. I'll wish you well this Thanksgiving. I'll hope that even if you are hurting from a loss this year, that you can find the joy in the memories. Share them and let the continue to be a part of your tradition.


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