Every year, before we start passing the dishes (to the left, of course, and every one of them needs to be passed or the people on the other end won't get all the dishes!) on Thanksgiving, my aunt Bonnalee or my mom, Deborah, pull out a certain scrapbook.
In it is a copy of an essay my grandmother wrote in the late '70s. The essay was submitted for a contest in the Sunday Eagle-Tribute, and she won a prize for it. It's worth a lot more than that to the family, as since her death, a reading has become an annual tradition. Usually, my aunt can't get through it without crying, and most of us fight throat-lumps, too.
Why I Like My Family
By Bonnie Burris Parcell
I like my family because the world is too big to embrace. Without it, I would be a faceless reflection in a gigantic mirror of twisting, floating images. My voice would pulsate into empty space with no one to hear my cry.
My family brings the world into focus by giving me an identity in a world within the world, where everything is scaled down to my size. In loving and being loved by a few, I can reach out into the larger world with confidence to see clearly each human being and to discover that his needs are the same as mine.
Without the family, I would be submerged in self-pity, unable to function, to make friends…always searching for meaning. Success would be empty if there were no eyes to light up with pride. Money would be worthless if it could not be spent to bring happiness to those I love. Leisure activities would be boring pursuits, if there were no-one to share them.
The closeness of those who care deeply about what I do, what I think, how I feel, and the interchange of interest, experiences, and feelings could not be duplicated in any other social structure.
My family has given me the proper climate in which to grow into a healthy awareness of myself and others, to learn that human relationships are the essence of life…and that love is ultimate.
That is why I like my family.
It's a tearjerker, especially knowing her, and knowing how much she meant it.
And we've got a handful of other traditions: lima bean casserole has to be part of the meal (try it before you judge it by its name), and for the past three years we've moved the feast to the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day so no one has to leave to significant other's family meals. And we almost always play a cut-throat game of Pictionary, complete with a big easel.
What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions, big or small?