Thursday, November 22, 2012
Thanksgiving Traditions Past and Present...
When I think about Thanksgiving, I can't help but think of one of my favorite Norman Rockwell paintings. It's the one that depicts a father and mother setting a Thanksgiving turkey on the table before, what appears to be, their children and extended family (or friends).
That is what I think about when I think of this day; the memories of growing up in my grandparents' old home in Hialeah.
I think about my grandmother cooking, as she always seemed to do, my mom helping and setting the table, my dad and grandfather running errands, helping carry things or sitting with my brother and me to watch football (my favorite team, the Washington Redskins, usually played their arch rivals, the Dallas Cowboys), as we waited for other relatives to arrive (although my grandfather was never too fond of that game for "animals" that we called sport! But, would watch and laugh, especially during rainy games, where players were slipping and sliding on the field).
It was a quaint little home, probably no more than 1500 square feet, which included three bedrooms, one bath, a small kitchen, which only really had room for one cook, although at times, there were two or three tightly squeezed in, a dining room, and, like many Hialeah homes, an illegal addition in the back of the house, which served as a small family room, and connected to a laundry room, where we put a toilet and sink. But, it was home.
For really big celebrations, during Noche Buena and New Year's Eve, where not only cousins and uncles, but great uncles, aunts, second and third cousins would come from as far as Chicago, Orlando and Caracas, Venezuela, we would set up a ping-pong table and several other tables in the car port and drive way area so that we could have dinner together.
However, on most Thanksgivings, it was just contained to the dining room table. We would turn off the TV, and gather around the table, pray, talk and eat. And, I loved to eat! (and still do) My grandmother was a great cook. While she mostly kept the meal traditional; turkey, home made gravy, cranberry sauce, corn and yams, there was always a little Latin flair, like black beans and rice, Cuban bread and flan, arroz con leche or pudin de pan for desert.
Even when my parents, brother and I moved to a townhouse several miles away, my grandparents house always was home to me. It's days like today, that I most miss my grandparents and those memories that will live forever in my heart.
I love tradition; especially the memories that come from them. Those are the kinds of memories I want my children to have and grow up with.
Today, like most recent Thanksgiving Days (as long as I can recall), my wife, children and I will go to my wife's cousin's house for Thanksgiving lunch (since several in the group have Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere).
They really serve a nice spread of all the traditional foods; turkey, gravy, ham, potatoes (in some form), corn casserole, cranberry sauce and much more.
Like my family and I did through the years, everyone sits together outside in their paved side yard, which has great shade trees. It feels like home, family and tradition. They are even gracious to invite my parents so I get to spend Thanksgiving with them as well.
My family and I usually go home and watch a movie and then eat a late snack when we get hungry but this year, I plan to start a new tradition.
For years, I have wanted to celebrate an old-fashion Thanksgiving dinner at my home. Unfortunately, because she figures it will all fall on her shoulders, my wife has always balked (Excuse me for being nostalgic, why don't you? Although, she might have a point!). But, after years of pining and not doing much about it, I finally decided that this year, I will take the task upon myself and cook a small Thanksgiving dinner for my wife and kids. (Besides, it was as good a year as ever; after a several year hiatus, the Redskins are playing the Cowboys again!)
Since it is my first attempt at this, I don't want to overextend myself (I figure it's like working out; you don't want to get injured on your first day) so instead of turkey or ham, which requires a lot more planning than I was willing to do (at least) this year, I will cook a pork loin. Yes, pork! I'm Cuban! I also bought some corn on the cob, which my kids love, some Stove Top stuffing, which I love, dinner rolls and an apple pie.
My wife wants nothing to do with it so it will be up to me. But, I'm confident I can pull it off. Hopefully, if all goes well, I can make it a yearly custom, like the one my grandparents used to have, and can invite my parents and mother-in-law in the future.
So, I give thanks to God for my wife and kids, for our health and faith, for our parents and families and for the opportunities to begin new, and hopefully, everlasting traditions.
Wish me luck and Happy Thanksgiving!...