It is Turkey Day.
That quiet time of the morning when home chefs are busy in the kitchen.
If you are African American or have family origins in the American south, that kitchen has homemade cornbread ready for the oven, sweet potato pies and pound cakes cooling, it has greens being cleaned and four kinds of cheeses ready for the Mac-and-cheese that now only my youngest daughter can make to perfection. The onions and celery would be sautéing in some butter while the sage sausage is being crumbled and fried for the dressing. The counters and kitchen table would be set up for the budding sous chefs. That turkey may be fried or the way I grew up, seasoned, rubbed with butter, stuffed with onions and celery and apples and sealed up in a brown grocery bag - long before those oven bags came out. The green beans and sweet potatoes -nothing from a can. The sweet tea, lemonade, and sparking cider. It was the sights and sounds.
When my kids were all home for the holidays, I would be making coffee, as I am now, and pulling out the mixer to mix up that pound cake they all love. The butter would have been sitting out all night to be nice and creamy, as well as my eggs -nothing cold goes into making that cake.
But this year, it is quiet in my home.
All five of my children are adults.
One son has his own wife and family now, a thousand miles away.
Another son is a bachelor with a thriving business, he has Black Friday Sales happening and will be here for Christmas.
The last son has a lady-love and drove half-way across the country to spend it with her family. They will be with us for Christmas.
So, it is quiet in my home.
The only sounds are coming from my coffee-making-routine. Not even the family of wild turkeys are in my backyard and the deer must be sleeping.
How in the world did thirty-five years go by so fast?
How in the world did eighteen years go by so fast?
How in the world are we young-old enough to be the parents at home alone?
I am not sure parents are ever prepared for that inevitable day when it is no longer a house filled.
This was my late father's favorite holiday.
Yes, we learned all about the atrocities and the American lies of its origins, but for the African American household that I grew up in, it was a time of fellowship. For. my father, a native of Arkansas who migrated to Michigan, this annual gathering of extended family was more than just the food on the table.
Stories were shared, history was remembered, traditions were sealed.
And for my daddy, it was that chocolate pie that only his sisters could make to perfection.
I still remember his last one, he was too weak to be at the table, but wanted to hear the sounds of his grandchildren, the girls had not been born yet. He would have loved them.
Perhaps memories are the gift of this time.
I live now on original indigenous land, in the part of the country where those first lost, cold, starving Englishfolks descended on Turtle Island. It surrounds me with the names of rivers and towns and streams as I drive in New England.
It is not lost on me that in just one week, there was major devastation done to lives because of the rhetoric of hate and division that some of those same EuroAnglo folks brought with them. The image of the shooter was definitely not of the royal household type.
This is when histories are told and when traditions are set and memories are sealed, even the sad ones like what happened in Virginia and Colorado.
If we don't tell all the stories when gathered around family, perhaps after dinner, maybe on the second dessert when the card games come out, then we are missing opportunities.
That is something I miss from my father.
Daddy would tell us about what it was like, of how his Native American father would spear fish and hunt and taught them to survive on what grew. I did not and still do not like squirrel, raccoon, or deer, but I understood what he was telling me. Fish, I can get with that, but not the rest.
He told us of how they migrated north and took with them their traditions, established a place of being and eventually, all his surviving siblings had homesteads.
That is no small thing for them being the first generation of their family to leave the south.
Daddy is gone and I am past the age when he was regaling us with stories growing up.
Memory hold me in place, recording what I want my kids to hold onto.
We shared with them the heritage of their family, tracing back to before 1776 on one side and at least 1820 on the other side. They know their ethnic origins and understand that our story is very much rooted in eight generations coming alive in this country. For all the flaws and the yet undone, this is our home.
So we gathered together on Turkey Day and shared meals.
In our former town, this is also the day of the big football rivalry so along with food prep, they would be putting on sweaters and grabbing blankets to go to the big game. The days before were exciting gatherings of pep rallies when the college kids come back and all look so grown up at the bonfire.
I think that is what we have held on to, this third Thursday in November. It unifies more than it divides. It is not a religious holiday and is not a cultural holiday. Every kind of American can take part in it and make it their own. Maybe that is what there is the hope of what could be. It is the kickoff to the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to Easter.
We mark time by these seasons.
Black Friday and when my kids were little, my husband and I would be shopping for our youngest daughter who was due on Thanksgiving but came on December 1st.
Small Business Saturday and all the unique handmade items on my list for December.
We enjoyed walks along main streets, for me, the coffee shops and the bookstores. These memories mattered more than what we actually buy, often, not much more than a new ornament every year.
Each year, we would tell ourselves that we would get the tree early and decorate over the November holiday and each year, we don't.
Maybe because we don't really do the next holiday until this one is complete and well, we have our daughter's birthday in there and have always wanted her to know it was her day and not just a journey to the next thing.
Sitting here, sipping my morning latte, listening to the quiet of my house, I remember all the years.
Our home was always a gathering spot when the boys were younger, we formed families with other transplants to that town.
When we moved again, closer to his family, we would carry our portion of the meal to his Aunt's house, and the table would be spread.
I glance in this kitchen and think about the years past and the years to come.
We are never really fully prepared for when the seasons of life change. All we can do is appreciate it when it is here, knowing that these young adults are forming their own traditions, their own families.
There will be a time when they come home to us and gather around the table again. They will be doing all the cooking at Christmas, I already told them. As my husband and I continue to age - mind. you, we are not senior senior citizens yet - we know that we will be forming new traditions and embracing new opportunities.
This year, we are gathering with friends and tomorrow, if the weather and our rest says the same, taking a small road trip to a state we've never seen before.
In the meantime, I am smiling with pride that in four different states, my five children are embracing their lives with joy.
©2022. All Rights Reserved by Antona B. Smith.
The writer and her husband are enjoying new seasons of life in New England she with a pen, a moleskin and a latte, he with a tea and his LP collection.
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