Thanks And Giving
For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has been my favorite of the holidays.
As years pass, I’ve learned many of my friends and family share the same affection for a holiday surrounded not by things but gratitude.
Unbeknownst to me (at the time), I grew up in a big family. The common term used for my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etcetera is ‘extended’ family. We weren’t raised to see it that way. They were/are my immediate family.
By definition the word ‘immediate’ means: nearest in time, relation or rank.
I’ve shared in past pieces that my mother is number 11 of 12 children. I am number one and only to a single mother. In our family, cousins served as siblings (whom I didn’t share a bathroom with). When things got tough, family was there. When celebration was due, yep! They were there too.
Perhaps it’s our Irish American heritage. My grandmother’s love of a full house, filled with loud voices and laughter or just the sense of commitment we were raised with. I truthfully haven’t a clue.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve had a few opportunities to step back and view our family from the ‘visitor’ side. The fun (and pretty special) thing about our family is that we’re not one to acknowledge ‘visitors.’ If you come through the door, sit at our table, stand in our kitchen or yell at the TV during sports viewing alongside us ... you are family.
It’s a pretty special and awesome way to grow up. It’s been fun having friends and their families join us for a holiday dinner or special event. Without fail they then remain on the guest list. ‘What’s three more!’ my mom has been known to say. As has my cousin and his beautiful wife, who host us on a regular basis for weekend getaways at their coastal home. Always graciously accepting anyone whom we might bring along.
I still recall one Thanksgiving with this cousin in particular. We were young, maybe 10 and 12 or so. We were finally brave enough to try the coveted and mysterious pumpkin pie that everyone smothered with Cool Whip. His mom always made multiples, as it was a family favorite. So, we tried it.
To say we got what the hype was about would be an understatement. The two of us shared one whole pie. I still remember the tummy ache and yes, the loud family laughter, as our elders marveled at our pie disappearing act.
Naturally as we’ve grown older, started our own families and our own traditions, Holidays look a little different. The noise is still there. The laughter too and traditions seem to become a bit more abundant.
What I most love about this time of year is the love that seems to fill the air. Sure, the grumpy, selfish and scrooge still exist. I choose not to let them affect my joy. Yes, I choose. Still smiling, offering a nod or a wave. My smile may be the only one they see that day. It may be exactly what they need.
‘Tis the season of gratitude. ‘Tis the season of selflessness. ‘Tis the season of joy.
As each of you find your way through the next five weeks, I hope you too find your Thanks and Giving, because the memories of all of it will far outlast the stuff.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.