The house began to smell like Thanksgiving. The pumpkin pie spice in the sweet potato pie mixed with the turkey smell are so fragrant and remind me of my childhood. I could envision my mother and my aunt cooking while we watched football or talked to each other. My grandmother was always a fixture at our Thanksgiving table. We ate earlier in the day so that in the evening the aunts and uncles would come over and we would have turkey sandwiches. It was always a day filled with family, food and love.
This year, the tables were ready with seating for 25. The television was on with the first of three football games, and there was a roaring fire in the fireplace. The living room was changed into a bit of a craft room for the younger kids, to give them a place to hang and things to do. There were coloring books, erase board and wooden ornaments to color with marker. There was a portable speaker in that room hooked up to my iTunes so that there was music. There were small vases with flowers around the dining room and candles already lit around the house. I opened the champagne to have my private toast to the day. It is my favorite day of the year. I looked around the house with a smile, knowing that only two nieces would not be here otherwise we had all of the Domenicks and Tropes, a tradition that began when we were growing up living three houses apart. We spent every Thanksgiving together except when my cousin and his family lived in New Mexico. And this year we were having a special treat of all five of my cousin’s children making it, that hadn’t happened in a few years!
I have been the family host of Thanksgiving since 2004. It is a day I look forward to all year long. This year was especially poignant for me as my mom is declining and I don’t know if she will make it to future gatherings. When the three most important people in your life, mom, dad and aunt, are all in their 90’s, you suddenly become very cognizant of every moment together. And I knew this day was going to be very important to the entire family. We were all together, with grandchildren and great grandchildren among us, all vying for time with these three stalwarts of our family tree and traditions. Two of the dishes that we always serve are traditions from our childhood, the sweet potato pie and the broccoli pie. We make them the same way that they were made for us as children, well we probably have perfected the recipes, me for the sweet potato pie and my sister-in-law Betty with the broccoli dish. We add other dishes each year, but these two are filled with childhood memories and always grace the table.
The house was warm, filled with laughter, and love. I stepped outside to get some air and sat down by the outside firepit. My nephew, the oldest grandchild, stepped out to join me. He was visibly upset after talking with my mom for a while. For him, my parents are more parent than grandparent. They truly helped to raise him as he lived with us for a few years. As we were talking about my mom, we were joined by his wife, my brother and sister-in-law. We all talked about how hard this was to see my mom decline. My nephew was very emotional.
For months now I was becoming more and more obsessed with this notion that I would be alone at some point. Once my parents were gone, there would be nobody who would worry about me, check in to make sure I was ok. I had an aunt, my dad’s sister, who I felt we failed at one point when we allowed her “friend” to take care of her instead of us. She was taken advantage of by these people and I have always believed that we should have spent much more time with her, and pay more attention to what was happening. We failed her in my opinion and she died alone. I am very frightened of being this generations “Aunt Mae” and being alone at some point with nobody in the family caring for me. It is maybe an irrational fear but one I have. I am alone. I have no spouse or anyone important in my life. I have no children. Other than my parents I have no one person who I am that important to, who would be there for me no matter what.
As we sat out by the fire I realized I needed to share that feeling with my brother, et al, and did. Although they made a little fun of me at first, typical Domenick sarcasm, they all realized that this was a real fear of mine and I needed some reassurance. They each ensured that would never happen. I had been wanting to have this conversation with my brother since April. But Thanksgiving ended up being the appropriate time and place. I felt some peace after sharing my fears with them.
As we walked back into the house, I heard the laughter of children, the buzz of constant conversation and the cry of a new baby. I smiled. This is my family. This is my family tradition. For as long as they want to be at my home for my favorite day of the year, this tradition will hold.
Blessed for what I have. Blessed for what I share. Blessed that I have some comfort in knowing that perhaps I will never be alone. And blessed much more to have my parents and aunt still joining us for celebrations. Never can I take that for granted.