Grief hits in waves, ebbing and flowing, in and out. It crashes against you at one moment and smoothly lap ankles a next. Some days are filled with sadness and fear and the others are less so, almost forgetting for a moment. Only a moment though. There are times that the grief is solely focused on mom and that heavy loss. There are other times where that grief is due to a loss of a friendship, of love, of time with someone. Sometimes those losses weigh as heavily as those caused by death.

As the wave of grief hit this year focused on mom, a flood of memories accompanied that sadness, bringing a smile to my face. The family traditions, some still in place since I was a kid, some were new, even starting one this year. The Domenick family and the Trope family grew up in many ways as one family. We spent vacations together, everyday times together and holidays. Living only 3 houses apart, we spent a lot of time together. My favorite memories though are the holidays. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s eve together every year. In fact, there has only been on Thanksgiving in all of my life that we haven’t spent together, when Jack lived in New Mexico and Aunt Kit and Uncle Tony decided to go there for the holiday. That was a very weird Thanksgiving for all of us. Mom and I talked about not letting that happen again.

An Italian tradition that we have continued has been to serve ravioli in between appetizers and the main meal. There was one year that I tried to convince everyone that we didn’t need ravioli, that idea was immediately shot down by not only the men in the family but all the kids. So we still have ravioli. We also continue to make two dishes that were made in our childhood, sweet potato pie with marshmallows and broccoli pie with cheese and bread crumbs. These dishes and their recipes have been handed down and in some ways perfected by my generation.

The memories that flooded me this year though were not just about food. They were about family. We as a large commingled family enjoyed each other’s company, laughing and singing together. Growing up this included the extended family beyond the two families joined at the hip on Jackson Court. We would eat dinner at either one of our houses in the afternoon. In the evening, my dad’s siblings and my uncle’s siblings would come over and join us. We would embark on round two of food, which was turkey sandwiches and desserts. There would be more laughter, maybe a round of cards, scotch sours flowing for the adults and maybe a game of charades or skittle bowl. It was perfect and filled us all with family and love. I don’t think we realized then all the love that was present.

This year we started a new tradition that we saw on social media. We bought a white tablecloth and had everyone who was here sign it. Next year we will do the same, and so on. Creating a new heirloom and perhaps tradition for the next generation to follow.

I have hosted the Domenick-Trope Thanksgiving since 2004. It is my favorite day of the year, something I shared with my mom. We both reveled in this day, focused on family, love, football and food. It was never about presents or wants or needs, but solely about love and presence. I stood outside before everyone came to my home on Thursday and talked to mom for quite a while. I thanked her for all of the love and guidance she has given me and for this family, my family, that I never take for granted. In the quiet moment of this conversation I looked up and there was a bluejay sitting on my bird feeder. I haven’t seen a bluejay in a month, but there it was, regal in its coloring with it’s tail feathers fanned open for me to see. I knew at that moment that mom was with me, with us.

I smiled and thought about how much I missed her and how much I felt her presence. On this Thanksgiving, our second without her, I am grateful for all she gave while alive. The love, acceptance and courage that I learned from her carries me forward as I grieve over love lost, friendships lost and other pains of the heart. She continues to fill my heart and reminds me of where I come.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year and those childhood memories along with the new traditions we create remind me of the wonderful life we have and the gratitude that fills my heart.

Thank you for being part of my journey.

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