I should have some kind of keen observation about the nature of extended family and the good old southern Thanksgiving dinner.
For the former, I suppose one just has to look at the pictures: pockets of conversation springing up here and there; the some males drifting in and out of the living room to check the progress of a given football game; women circled around a child.
Getting the extended family together was the goal of Thanksgiving on my father’s side. I recall celebrations of twenty years ago when all the brothers and sisters, in-lawns, children, grandchildren, and a few guests got together and filled a small house to overflowing. There must have been forty or more people some years.
Now, we meet in a bigger house with a smaller family: all the cousins have grown and have families of their own. Some are even grandparents. They have their own gaggle to gather together Thanksgiving and Christmas: if we tried to bring together the same group today, there would be sixty or seventy, not just forty.
I wouldn’t recognize half of them, and I wouldn’t even known many. A stranger in one’s own family. It would be like looking through photos of someone else’s family reunion.
Still, even in that case, there would always be the familiar faces.
The smaller group is better. No strangers. Just smiles and
It all spills outside as the children play. Blizzards in the north and our family has Thanksgiving in shorts.
Now, just as my cousins and I played together years ago, our children play together. Uncles put them up trees, older cousins lead them into various adventures: it’s all very familiar.
Playing in grandpa’s back yard, exploring together. I have the sense I’m watching my own life.
Perhaps just looking at the pictures wouldn’t suffice, though. Pictures are worth a thousand words only to those who know the narrative behind the shot. For others, they’re just pictures of strangers.
Do the pictures of the food suffice, though? There are no exotic holiday-influenced dishes here. Turkey and dressing with thick, chunky giblet gravy; casseroles that are a variation on a cheese-and- theme; an enormous ham with a lottery of uneven slices; green beans, greens, and sweet tea. It is a southern meal in spades.
Pictures are enough, but I didn’t take many pictures of food. It was, in a way, the very least important guest.