Family, food, football
All of us — The Legal Genealogist included — have our favorites. That one holiday of the year that we enjoy just that little bit more than any of the others.
For some, it’s Christmas. They love the weather at that time of year, the decorating, the gift buying and gift getting.
Nope. Not for me.
For me, that’s stress, more stress and still more stress. I don’t like cold weather, I’m a total failure at holiday decorating, and trying to find just the right gift for just the right person makes me want to hide under the bed.
For others, it’s the Fourth of July. They love the patriotism, the fireworks, the backyard barbecues.
Nope. Not my favorite either.
Oh, I’m all in for the barbecues, and I adore fireworks — but try to convince the pets who have owned me over the years that unending (and utterly illegal) firecrackers going off for hours (and, these days, for days) is a good thing. Nope.
No, for me, as I sit here ruminating on what’s become Family Saturday here in this blog, it always comes back to one holiday.
The one coming up this next week here in the United States.
My absolute favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
For years, the entire extended family on my mother’s side would try to get together in Virginia. So many people together in one place that it had to be held in a hall. Aunts, uncles, cousins by the dozens, and all presided over by the family matriarch, my grandmother Opal (Robertson) Cottrell.
And the whole holiday get-together was a celebration of family, food, football (because you have to have football on Thanksgiving, right?)… and music. Such music. Guitars, banjos, voices in multi-part harmony.
Over time, of course, things changed. So many of those voices were stilled. As people spread out and their lives became busier, it became harder to get together in one place. And my grandmother’s death in 1995 removed the glue that had held disparate parts of the family together.
So the holiday gatherings changed.
For years, my own branch celebrated by having my sister’s family come to my house. I would buy all the ingredients for the Thanksgiving dinners, and my sister and her husband (an excellent chef) would do all the cooking and all the clean-up. My job was to ensure that there were Broadway play tickets for the day after Thanksgiving. And that the television was on to show football after the meal.
It was a perfect division of labor, and the result was that we all saw a lot more Broadway plays than we’d have dreamed of in any other way.
But even those kids are now grown with kids of their own. And they’re now making traditions of their own.
So the gathering has changed yet again.
This Thursday, Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, a bunch of us will gather at the home of one of my brothers.
There will be family.
There will be food.
And there will be football.
Some things never change.
And for that I will be eternally thankful.
My favorite too! Although we seldom celebrated with any family, our nearest kin lived hundreds of miles away, the food and the parades and the beginning of the holiday season made Thanksgiving my favorite.
Thanksgiving’s my favorite too. When I was a kid, my mother’s side of the family celebrated together. At that point, my grandparents were the oldest generation, but they died very soon, in their late 90s, but there were lots of aunts and uncles, and many cousins. They were growing up and marrying and having kids. We rented a hall on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, Washington, where many of my cousins lived, and we could, weather permitting, see the Sound and Mount Baker. One of my aunts brought an almost-done turkey, and the rest was potluck. After we ate, we took the obligatory family picture. My dad had a 35 mm camera with a doohickey that allowed him 10 seconds to get in the picture. Others took pictures too. Dad was in charge. When he got his picture back, he made an 8 by 10 copy, made a diagram with numbers on each head, and listed all 60-80 relatives. Then he named everybody and put the year at the top. The pictures and the list went in a chronological notebook. When we had to move the location because of someone’s health (it was 3 hours from Seattle, so the drive was hard on some people), he still kept up the notebook.
Unfortunately, after he died in 2000, that notebook disappeared. Nobody was willing to take on the task. Over the years a random few of the old pictures have showed up. If there are babies in them, the parents of those babies can date that particular picture, and name some of the other people. It makes me sad that the notebook’s gone. We’re now down to as few as 8 some years. But some of the youngsters are married and more babies are being born, so the numbers are creeping back up. This year we’re expecting 16. We’ve always taken pictures, and I keep track. I label the picture, and in another file, I label the list of people (including the dogs who worm their way onto laps. I send copies via email out to everyone who was there. If someone wants to create Doris’s notebook, so it will be around after I’m gone, that would be a good idea. I guess I might as well, even though I’m not the photographer. I’m doing the work anyway!