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Thanksgiving, Tradition and Change by Amy

This post originally appeared on my blog

Thanksgiving has always been my family’s holiday. We love the food, the time of year and the fact there is no religion or rules involved. For us it was about family and food, two of our favorite things.

Our Thanksgiving stories usually revolve around both. The stories begin in the morning with the turkey preparation. This was always done to the sound of the parades or football games on the TV in the background, my dad cutting the olives and bread for the stuffing – with a running commentary of how much and the size of the pieces of both, and my mother talking about how she used to love the turkey neck. By now we can all recite her part in unison, and usually do!

As a child, my mom always made the holiday at our house for family and friends. One year, the Levinsons, family friends of my parents, joined us for dinner. They had a daughter, Diana, who was younger than both my sister and me. Diana was very slight and shy. My grandpa Dan, who had a wicked outrageous sense of humor that took some getting used to even for those who knew him well, offered to help this little girl fix a plate at the buffet (which is how we always serve Thanksgiving dinner). He fixed her an enormous plate of food which weighed more than she did. He set it down in front of her at the table and said, “And when you finish that, you can have some more.” Well, she ran crying from the table and I don’t remember her returning! I certainly hope that experience didn’t make Thanksgiving her least favorite holiday.

As a young adult, the tradition had become dinner with family, and an open house for dessert when friends would come by. This tradition took on a life of its own during my college years, my first years married, and really grew once we moved to San Diego from Michigan. It was the one time of year we always visited Detroit and my parents’ house on Thanksgiving evening was the place to gather and catch up with the friends and family we were separated from all year. Once we had kids, it was everyone’s guaranteed time to check in on the cuteness of the offspring. By that time in our lives the order of the draw to the Krause House was 1) My mom’s desserts 2) the cute girls 3) Amy and Paul.  This tradition continued, broken only once, the year Dana was born, when we had a small Thanksgiving in San Diego, which we hosted in our condo. With the long distance phone bill to my mother during the preparation of that meal, along with the cooking supplies and serving dishes purchased, I am quite sure three airfares to Michigan would have been cheaper!

Years ago when we told the girls that my parents were moving here, Sophie asked if we were still going to go back to Grandma Suzy and Papa Gerry’s house for Thanksgiving. I said no, that that wouldn’t be their house anymore, to which she replied, “But what about all the people and the party?!” I told her that we would have Thanksgiving at our house, with people and a party here. And that is exactly what we have done ever since.  Okay, honestly, the only thing I do is have it at our house; my mom and sister make almost ALL the food. The same food my mom has been making since the ’70s, with the wonderful addition of Linda and Ed’s sweet potatoes and the Jensens’ mashed potatoes.

The first year we hosted Thanksgiving in our house, my friend since the 8th grade, Sherrie, came out to celebrate with us. After all, coming to my parents’ house for at least dessert had been her tradition since 1974 (now you all know how old I am!). Their move affected her holiday tradition as well. I don’t remember how many people we had that year, but our biggest year we had 42 for dinner. It is quite something for us to have and feed that many people in our house given its modest size and electrical panel from 1969. Inside, it looks and smells like Martha Stewart; outside and in the garage, the Beverly Hillbillies! But it has become our thing, and it feels good. It feels good that we have made a life that fills our home with family and friends, a real reason to give thanks.

This year will be the first since we have lived in our house that we will not be hosting Thanksgiving as usual. You see, nothing this year is “as usual” because my dad isn’t here. My sister and my mom just can’t see this remaining our favorite holiday, and maybe this year it won’t be. If it isn’t, I hope it will be again. They couldn’t see continuing with business as usual, when nothing is usual without my dad.

We are all upset by the thought and the reality of Thanksgiving without my dad, but Dana was the most upset by the change in the routine of her favorite day of the year. My mom, my sister and I just couldn’t do the routine so soon, without my dad. So we are changing things up this year. But we promised Dana that we wouldn’t change the food. That has to be and will always be exactly the same.

Each of us holds the stories, the traditions, the routine within us. I hope we find that that is what makes the holiday our favorite. I hope we find more comfort than pain in the familiar yet altered. I hope we all give ourselves a holiday that honors our tradition with this day, Dana’s favorite day of the year. But it won’t be a big crowd, and it won’t be at our house. And someone else will have to supervise the size of the olives and the bread for the stuffing. Thanks to my dad, there will be four qualified women to do just that — me, my sister, Sophie and Dana. After all, we each spent our childhood sitting at my dad’s side, first watching, then once we were old enough to handle a knife, helping.


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