The Ghost of Thanksgivings Past…

I’m sure that we must have celebrated Thanksgiving when I was a child in Alaska, probably with lots of friends, music, and laughter, but I don’t have any specific memories of Thanksgiving during those years. Halloween and Christmas, yes, but not Thanksgiving. My memories of Thanksgiving are of holidays at my Grandparents’ house. My Grandparents’ house was a place where you had to walk on eggshells & be careful what you said, because my grandfather (whom I loved dearly) had a very sarcastic tongue, and a perfectly innocent conversation could quickly turn ugly. Add to that some pretty divergent political and social beliefs around the table, and it’s a recipe for something less than Norman Rockwell. Add to that the fact that the only adult in the family who wasn’t on a constant diet, a never ending battle with gaining weight, was my grandfather, who thanks to only having part of his stomach probably never topped 105 lbs. The constant diet, the guilt over eating, the implicit criticism and talk of the next diet, and how things would be better once one lost the weight…ugh.

Then there was the food. My grandma likes her meat dry dry dry, so the turkey sticks to your teeth and the bones fall apart when you cut into the bird. I think I was in my 20s the first time I saw a nice juicy turkey. She was also a big fan of boxes for cooking. Potatoes from a box. Gravy (brown, not turkey) from a packet. Cranberry sauce from a can. The saving grace, for me, was her yummy fruit salad, and the fact that as a thin child, I could eat all I wanted without fear of eyebrows being raised in my direction.

From all of this, I decided that my least favorite holiday of the year was Thanksgiving. I mean, what was the point. The dining room table wasn’t large enough for everyone to sit around, so we split in two, adults in the living room, kids in the dining room. The food was dry and of course, I forgot to mention that my Grandparents both smoked like chimneys, so the food tasted a lot like cigarettes. (Yum!) And while my Grandma wasn’t really going to go off on anyone and criticize them or get in a fight, she might start talking about the next diet while one was trying to enjoy the turkey, potatoes, and gravy. And Grandpa might or might not go off on someone at any time. I loved him dearly, as I said, but he was often not a very pleasant man. We never spent any time on Thanksgiving, to my memory, talking about what we were thankful for. So to me, it was a holiday spent around food…eating food, guilt for eating food, not really enjoying the food. What a waste.

Feeling this was was very conflicted for me, actually, because while I did not enjoy the food, and the danger of Grandpa’s sarcasm was always present, I loved my Grandparents dearly, and we did have some good times, with laughter and love and funny jokes being told. But I think the stress and pressure of a big holiday was too much, and a typical Sunday dinner at their house was far preferable to me than a holiday, even though the food would taste just as cigaretty and overcooked, and there was still the danger of Grandpa’s tongue.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, or how to end this post, actually. Mostly I think I wanted to share what Thanksgiving was like for me while growing up. My cousin reads my blog, and I believe her memories are probably quite a bit different than mine. For one thing, she likes her turkey mighty dry. 😉 For another thing, she’s 9 1/2 years younger than I am, so she was a lot younger than I was when our Grandfather died, so she has many more memories of Thanksgivings without his sarcasm than I do. I moved to San Francisco the year he died, so all of my memories of Thanksgivings at Grandma’s house (sans Grandpa) are in my adult years, while she was still a kid for many of those Thanksgivings. Again, not sure really how to end this post, except to say that tomorrow’s post will be more about how Thanksgiving went from my least favorite holiday of the year, to my very favorite of all.

1. Call the insurance company and deal with the damage done to the car when I hit a tire going 70 mph last night. 🙁
2. Lunch with a Republican.  Awesome.
3. Get a list together and go Thanksgiving grocery shopping.  Not as awesome.

7 thoughts on “The Ghost of Thanksgivings Past…

  1. Oh, I’m glad you are ok after hitting that tire!

    I like Thanksgiving, although a lot of times it feels a lot like all of our other family get-togethers, just with turkey. We get together a lot though, so that is probably why.

  2. Yeah, it was all pretty much like that in my memory too. Even though gramps passed away when I was 13, I can remember as far back as when I was 3, it was that scaring. I am glad however that grams doesnt smoke anymore, and she isnt drying out the turkey as bad (because Uncle Forest hates it dry) and we dont have to worry about gramps yelling at anyone. But one thing I do miss was we were all there anyway. It seems like when gramps died everyone stopped coming to grams house. Obviously there is nothing we can do if we moved far away, and that is what happened with most of us. So Thanksgiving is evolving I guess to other traditions.

  3. I think when we have less than pleasant holiday memories from our own childhoods, we are more determined to make the holidays special for our own children. I’ll bet Maya will have wonderful holiday memories when she is an adult.

  4. I always thought of the holidays at your grandparents’ house as holidays from hell. The interesting thing is that the very last Thanksgiving that Grandpa was alive was a good one. He didn’t get snarky even once, everyone had a good time. Forrest and I decided it had been worth it to come to all of them, just so we could have that one.

  5. Glad you’re ok after the tire incident!

    Your childhood Thanksgiving reminds of my Christmas in England – very weird and stressful. Add to that a bunch of stupid rules that some drunken ass former relative made up and everyone had to follow. I’m glad those days are over.

  6. Oh No!
    I hope everyone is ok after the tire hitting! That sucks!

    I too had some off Thanksgiving memories as a kid and haven’t quite gotten over them. I sadly see Thanksgiving as an obligation and not something joyous.

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