Memory Makers

I wonder what the significant memories will be, when the kids think of their childhoods. Will the recollections include big Thanksgiving dinners with my family, or Christmas celebrations with my husband’s? Will they remember opening presents and pumpkin pie and being together in one house?

Our holidays are crowded, the house packed with laughter and chatter and too much wine. Will they remember these big family reunions? Will they stay in touch with the cousins and maybe even celebrate together when they are grown? I hope so.

I have been trying to think of Thanksgiving highlights from my own childhood. Mom didn’t like any of the holidays very much, but I am confident that Thanksgiving topped the naughty list. She didn’t enjoy cooking or cleaning and saw little value in fancy presentations, perfect tables. We were never particularly close to our relatives. Our cousins are all older. Or much younger. It was just us. And Irish meals are rarely featured in the finest cooking magazines, if you know what I mean. No, any Thanksgivings that might have been have faded from my mind. I simply cannot recall.

Instead, turkey day memories are replaced with vignettes of childhood. A water balloon fight, with mom right in the middle, chasing after the fastest neighborhood kid. And the day she let me stay home from school, to sit by the pool, and take in the sun. Buying jelly doughnuts on the way home from church. The time someone left a mini-bike in our trash, and dad fixed it up for my brother to ride, through trails in our woods.  My sister choreographing dance routines in the basement and putting on shows, mom smiling too broadly and clapping too wildly at the amateur production. And, of course, the shopping trip that started out as a grocery run and ended with the purchase of our final family member, the dog. “Where are his papers?” dad asked. I remember that, too. Papers do not come with a $40 department store pooch.

These memory makers did not happen on a holiday. They didn’t come with mashed potatoes or stuffing or water and wine glasses, forks on the left, knives on the right. Yet I am thankful still.

Today, we are too big for one dining room. There are 15 of us, three families. Seven boys, two girls. All under 20. Well, almost all. The oldest of the next generation turned 20 two days before the turkey was sliced, the table was set. And although mom is gone, and dad too old to travel, they are here, too, in the stories we tell, the memories we share.

The kids play football, manhunt. Occasionally, we talk them into a game of charades. This year, my oldest nephew showed my oldest son a fake ID. That was a highlight for both, I believe. And I am reminded of this same nephew showing my son a skeleton key and explaining that it will open doors he doesn’t even know about. He was six then. He is opening doors still.

We have four solid days of togetherness. And then it is over. As they leave, the youngest daughter of the youngest daughter calls out.  “See you in the summer!” She heads back to her life of sleepovers and volleyball and things that young ladies do, when they are not eating turkey. And apple pie.  My own boys turn on the TV. Take long hot showers. Meet friends at the mall, at the Y. Turn back to lives of less family togetherness. More friends.

Next Thanksgiving, we will sit together with my college freshman. Is it possible? The oldest nephew will be legal in every sense of the word. The youngest, a preteen. My brother will have less hair. I’ll have more wrinkles. My sister, still beautiful, fashionable, will have learned to let her daughter go, just a bit, to trust that the values she has taught her will lead to the right choices, the right friends. We will have spent a year having grand successes, and colossal failures, memories will have been made. We will share them on this day. We will laugh. We will tell. We will remember.

And we will be together again.

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