I thought about which special occasion I would talk about for today’s challenge, and I had trouble choosing one that would help me express my own voice. I come from a large, expressive family in a very traditional Hispanic Catholic sense. Our lives were a duality of experiences, and it seems like everyone has “story-telling” in the blood. I needed to chose one that came from me, my memories, and not heard from others so often it became my own.
I ended up choosing Thanksgiving, a time of food and laughter. Even harsh feelings don’t stand a chance in the face of succulent turkey and buttery homemade mash potatoes. Couple that with my mother’s song voice, and it becomes…bliss. Pure bliss.
Thanksgiving has been my personal favorite holiday for a long time, but no memory stands out so much as the first one I began to connect more with my family. As a child I was too wrapped up in my own world of books and writing, I didn’t really know my cousins and family that would come over. I was polite and courteous as my mommy taught me. I said hello and hugged family I hadn’t seen in some time, but I quickly turned back to my room or a quiet spot to bury myself in myself. I wanted to have peace, and tranquility; being the youngest of six with more than twenty cousins, aunts, uncles, and all of our padrinos and madrinas and compadres and comadres…I was drowning in a sea of faces. Yet Thanksgiving was a time of grace, thanks, and family conversation without the pressure of presents and being good.
When I began to break out of my bubble, I began to enjoy the time of crowds and loud conversations. My cousins were hilarious, and we all had a unique view on our parents. My nieces, Brenda in particular, were my babies in that sense. They were the ones who showed me the most, the fun of being a child. I had always felt like a mini-adult (albeit shy beyond compare).
Playing in and out of the house, flitting through various conversations as I travelled through the yard, patio, and common areas. The living room was by favorite. You could catch snippets of laughter, advice, complaints, and a variety of stories from both present and past.
The food was beautiful, and my mother carried that tray of turkey to the table with grace and a welcoming smile. We would all gather at my mother’s command, and make the most odd looking, wobbled “circle” as we held hands and said grace. Hearing my mom’s melodic voice praying el padre nuestro and santa maria followed by words of thanks is soothing, and my loud, rowdy family would calmly listen and pray along.
After the eating was done, and the coffee was brewing or the beers were being passed amongst the adults, my Tio Jose would start a song. Tio Jiame and Tio Juan would pick up the tune and my momma would join the fun. The accordion would come out, the guitar, sometimes even a mic or two. Last, but definitely not least, cousins were pulled out to dance and sing or laugh along. It was always my favorite.
Time has passed, cousins have married and moved away. Some aunts have passed away, and now its pretty much just us. Now, by no means are we a small group. We have merely replaced some of the components of our past Thanksgivings with new events. We still have prayers and our lopsided circle of held hands.
Me and my siblings (with their children, and grand children) now compose a group of more than thirty with our parents at the crown being not only grandparents, but also great-grandparents. I still get to see my Tio Jose with the microphone or accordion at most family gatherings, and now my children get to sing alongside me and my mother. My sisters and brothers, their kids and more, all under my mother and father’s roof. A house that was never a house. My parents’ house is and always will be a home. All of this love has surrounded me in the best and worst of memories, because my family for all its faults is supportive. Thanksgiving brings us together in a way that feels more sincere and genuine; it lingers in my heart and makes me smile for weeks and months after.
Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I can’t wait. I anticipate it, as if clinging to the edge of a cliff on Mount Everest. I know the fall will be glorious and long-lasting.