Watching This is Us this week, I was intrigued by their family Thanksgiving traditions. As they showed me the way in which the traditions were formed, I began to think of my family and our traditions. Many of our traditions have changed over time as me and my siblings married into other families. We assimilated our traditions with the traditions of our new families. But, our most cherished tradition will always be our gratitude for our family. What are your family Thanksgiving traditions?
At Thanksgiving dinner, my family always goes around the room and each person says what they are thankful for. One of my favorite years was when my niece said Aunt Karen, which was a great honor. And, this year I am ready with my answer. I am grateful for my husband and our family and home that we have built together. Along with my family, I am thankful for my followers and the opportunity to share my thoughts around the world. What are you thankful for? Share your gratitude with us.
During the month of November, I will be brown bagging my lunch 5 times at a savings of $50 to my budget. I am going to give that money to No Kid Hungry https://www.nokidhungry.org/ to feed the hungry kids in our country. I am grateful for the food on my table and I want to make sure that children have food for the holidays. Please join my campaign “Brown Bag Is The New Black” for the month of November as part of your Thanksgiving. Our $50 donations could make all the difference for these kids. Thank you for supporting the hungry kids.
After weeks of searching every inch of the house for their Christmas presents, Peanut and her brothers were beginning to think that they had finally pushed their mother too far. Maybe they shouldn’t have joined the cousins in the food fight at the kids table on Thanksgiving. Of course they couldn’t have known that the General would slip on the food and twist his ankle. “Maybe this is the year that Mom and Dad finally give us nothing,” Peanut sighed. Her suspicion was now turning into desperation. She needed to find a way to turn this around. “What if we do the laundry and dishes for Mom?” she asked. “Do you think that she would forgive us?”
So, Peanut, Scooter and Teddy began their efforts to redeem themselves with Mom. Dragging the laundry from the hamper down the stairs to the washing machine, Peanut and Teddy worked together to load the laundry in the washing machine. Standing on a stool, Peanut placed the laundry in the washing machine as Teddy handed it up to her. When the wash basket was full, Peanut called for help “Scooter, I can’t reach the soap.” Scooter grabbed the Tide and thought some of his clothes had some really bad stains from rolling in the dirt yesterday. With that, he dumped half of the box on top of the laundry in the machine. Looking at the dial, he remembered Mom telling him “Nothing gets clean without hot water.” So, he knew Mom would be proud of him as he chose the hot water cycle and adjusted the other knob that read extra soiled.
Now, it was time for them to finish the dishes. As they entered the kitchen, they began sloshing through the puddle of water cascading down the cabinets from the sink. “Oh no!” Scooter shouted, rushing to the faucet to shut off the water and pull the plug to let the water go down the drain. They had to think fast! How to get rid of the water on the floor? “I know what to do!” Peanut shouted and ran to her room. Pulling the blankets and sheets from her bed and dragging them down the hall, Peanut began sopping up the water with her bedding. When her bedding was saturated, Peanut ran to Teddy’s bed and dragged his bedding to the kitchen too. Soon there was a large pile of soaked bedding in a pile, but the water was gone.
Turning to the sink again, Scooter cleaned the dishes and left them in the drying rack. Then, he ran down stairs to find soap suds surrounding the washing machine. Panic set in once again. All of the kids scrambled to wipe up the suds with the rest of the dirty clothes. Once it was under control, Scooter throw the sudsy clothes from the washer into the dryer and put it on high. Then his heart sank. “What is going on here?” Scooter heard his mother yell from upstairs. Running up the stairs, Scooter recognized the look on his mother’s face and a lump formed in his throat. “Why is there a pile of soaked bedding in the kitchen?” she asked, shaking her head. “Um, Um, Well, you see..,” Scooter started. “Well, we were trying to do the dishes for you and the water sorta spilled,” he finished looking down to avoid her glare. “Okay bring this bedding downstairs so I can wash it,” she ordered, turning to put the groceries away. “At least she’ll be surprised by the laundry,” Scooter thought. There was still hope.
When all of the groceries were safely stored, she went down the stairs to start the laundry. After loading the first round of bedding, she opened the dryer to see what had just finished drying. “Oh my God! What did you do?” could be heard all the way to the third floor where Peanut and Teddy were hiding. “Who put the laundry in the machine? Peanut, Scooter and Teddy get down here now!” she commanded. As they entered the room, they found their mother holding up Scooter’s now pink undershirts and briefs. “Look at these,” she bellowed. “All of the whites are now pink!” Throwing the underwear into the laundry basket, she reached into the dryer and pulled out Lindsey’s favorite lamb’s wool sweater too small for even Peanut to wear. “What were you thinking?” she sighed shaking her head. When she paused, a scream came from the doorway. “What did you little monsters do to my sweater? How could you?” Lindsey yelled. “Lindsey let me handle this. We will get you a new sweater,” Mom promised.
They all stood there quietly until she was ready to speak. “I understand that you were trying to help, but it didn’t help. I will clean your bedding and you will bring it upstairs and make your beds. Please don’t do laundry without me,” Mom requested. “And, as for Lindsey’s sweater, you will each earn $5.00 towards the next sweater. Now, go upstairs and put away the dishes and your toys.”
Ascending the stairs with the weight of the world on their shoulders, they quickly put away everything as their mother asked. Peanut and her brothers went to bed on Christmas Eve with visions of nothing under the tree dancing through their heads. They didn’t even wake their parents at the crack of dawn to open presents. What was the point? When the clock struck 8:00 AM, their parents finally called for them to come down for breakfast. Slowly walking down the stairs, their eyes lit up when they saw the presents under the tree. “What?” Peanut puzzled. “I thought that we weren’t getting any presents.” Smiling their mother said, “Go ahead and look at the names on the presents,” she encouraged.
Tearing into a box that said for Peanut from Mom and Dad, Peanut found Disco Barbie! Screaming, Peanut ripped open the box to set up Disco Barbie on her stand for dancing. Behind her, Teddy was pushing a button on his Police Car causing flashing lights and a siren. And, even Scooter had a box with a Science kit. Finally, the last box said to Lindsey from Scooter, Peanut and Teddy. Inside the box was the most beautiful blue lamb’s wool sweater. “I love it,” she screamed as she ran to her room to try it on. Amongst the noise and wrapping paper, Mom sat quietly smiling. She had finally found a way to surprise them. Score one for Mom!
Flour flurries filling our house the day before Thanksgiving. “In the bowl, Peanut. Put the ingredients in bowl,” my mother shouted. “Honestly Peanut! More flour went on you than into the pie crust.” Despite her protests, she was very happy having Peanut baking by her side that day. Even with the mishaps (which our dog happily ate), we had four pies and an assortment of breads at the end of the day. Smiling, my mother brushed the flour out of my hair and said, “Well done Peanut!”
That evening, Teddy and I were sent to bed with visions of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy dancing in our heads. Every creature was stirring in our house. Teddy and I dreaming of our feast. Scooter planning his strategy for beating Hank this year in the family Thanksgiving football game and Lindsey rolling up her hair in curlers for the perfect Farrah Fawcett hair style.
The next morning we loaded the car and we were off to Uncle Teddy’s house. It was over the Merrimack River and through the woods to Uncle Teddy’s house we went. He was the cool uncle who drove a 1969 Stingray Corvette and motorcycle, which we were always begging to ride. As we entered the kitchen at our uncle’s house, Teddy was overwhelmed by the smell of the Turkey roasting in the oven. To keep us occupied until dinner, our aunt gave us carrots and apples to feed the horses and said “Here bring these Thanksgiving treats to the horses. They deserve something special today too.”
When we had finished feeding the horses, we came back to get ready for dinner. As we entered the kitchen, the dogs tried to race us through the door. “Stop!” my aunt yelled. “Get those turkey thieves out of here. Keep them out on the porch.” We pulled the dogs outside and carefully closed the door behind us. They continued to bark and scratch at the door. The noise grew louder when my aunt took the turkey out of the oven. They continued ripping at the door trying to get to that turkey. “I’m glad they are outside,” my aunt exclaimed with relief.
Finishing the mash potatoes and gravy, our aunt began to fill the server bowls with mashed potatoes, squash, green beans, stuffing and peas. She had placed sticky notes on the dining room table to tell us what to place where. Filling every inch of the table with our feast, my aunt brought the final platter filled with freshly carved turkey. Everyone, including the five cats who had been hidden around the house all day, was now circling the table.
All of the serving dishes filled to the brim and arranged on the table, it was now time for the feasting to begin. Gathering around the dining room table, we went around the circle saying for what we were grateful. And, just as my brother Teddy said that he was grateful for the turkey, we heard a loud crash in the kitchen. Running into the kitchen, my brother screamed, “’Nooooo!” Curious, we all joined him to see why he was screaming. Our beautiful turkey was moving around the kitchen on the floor being dragged by the cats.
Earlier, when my aunt left the kitchen, the cats jumped up on the counter to attack the remaining turkey in the pan. A fight broke out among the cats, sending the turkey crashing to the ground. Now, they were wrestling each other for the turkey dragging it back and forth on the kitchen floor. Horrified by this site, my brother started crying. He waited all year to stuff himself with turkey.
Always ready with a joke, Uncle Teddy asked “Anyone want seconds on the turkey?” Taking his cue from Uncle Teddy, Scooter said “I have five bucks on the Calico to win. Any takers?” Suddenly, we all burst out laughing. With tears of laughter in her eyes, Peanut said “at least we still have the pies.”
Ahhh! It’s fall again. My favorite time of year in New England! The first signs of fall come as the temperature starts to drop at night. As the air gets crisp, so do the apples. Even before the leaves turn, we are off to the apple orchard. Running up the hill to beat the rest of the crowd, we grab as many of the Honey Crisp apples as we can find for school snacks. When our bags can’t hold anymore apples, we trudge down the hill like pack mules. “There’s no more room in the car,” I insist. “We can’t take anymore apples home.” We are off to make all of our favorite apple dishes. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what does 3 apples do?
After we have secured our apples for the season, we turn our attention to the leaves. When the leaves change colors, it is as if we are driving through a Graham Gercken or Gary Kim landscape–spectacular everywhere we go. A trip to the post office brightens my day as I take in bright reds, yellows and oranges. Just when I thought that I had seen all of foliage that there was to see, we went to Santa’s Village in the White Mountains for Columbus Day weekend. I was mesmerized during the drive up through the mountains. It was more magnificent than any landscape that I have ever seen. The pies de résistance was our Ferris Wheel ride. As our car rounded the top of the wheel, I was struck by one of the most breath taking views that I have ever seen. The mountainside ablaze in orange, yellow and red with evergreens mixed in to make the colors pop even more.
And, the leaves become the greatest source of entertainment for my son and his friends. While we are raking them into neat piles, they can’t resist jumping into them a few times. As a grand finally, my son throws the leaves in the air, creating a shower of red, orange and yellow upon our heads. Dancing and laughing, he runs in circles under the shower of leaves. What joy!
Another fall favorite of every child in New England is Pumpkin Carving. Covering the kitchen table with newspaper, we have a family competition for the best decorated pumpkins. In order to inspire my son and his friends, I brought them to The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI. Who knew that pumpkins could be a work of art? Thousands of carved pumpkins from traditional Halloween witches and haunted houses to a trip through the United States and throughout the world. Just when I thought I had seen enough I walked past a pumpkin Elvis and pumpkin The Beatles. For the big finish, they had fog with the largest pumpkins that I have ever seen made even eerier by a light show and spooky noises. This amazing show is a must see.
The main event in our fall is Thanksgiving. Beginning with the school Thanksgiving play with William Bradford and Miles Standish (played by my son) planning the first thanksgiving dinner with the Indians. After weeks of practice, we march into the classroom and take our seats. Each trying to find the best angle for our cameras. We all clap loudly and cheer for our children. So very proud of them all, we commend the teacher for their performance, and leave for Thanksgiving with smiles on our faces, knowing that our child was the best. After the school play we travel to family for Thanksgiving dinner and the annual family football. Hopefully, this year we can skip the trip to the emergency room. The family story is that my husband was tackled by 6 huge guys and not 10 nieces and nephews in a pillow fight. Shhh! At least that’s what we have been telling everyone.