Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Our Thanksgiving Tradition

I guess I would have to say that for the better part of the last 13 years, Chuck and I have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Now, 13 years ago, I was 6 months pregnant with Eric, so I didn't do a lot of the cooking. I did what I could do in the little bitty kitchen we had at the time. For the most part Chuck did everything.

Over the years we have either cooked at our place or taken the food to my in-laws because our place was either too far away or way to small to accomodate 15 or more people.

There was one year, PJ's first Thanksgiving, I remember this so clearly. We had a very small 2 bedroom apt, we really didn't have the room for the 4 of us. So, we decided that we would do all the cooking at my in-laws. My dad was here for that Thanksgiving, so we just could not handle all the people in our home.

Chuck takes off with all the goods and I have the boys, my dad and some of the odds and ends that Chuck didn't need. So, I get there shortly behind Chuck and I go and help him in the kitchen.

Since then, we have bought our own home and have continued to cook for the family and friends. It has always been one of the best days for me. I guess because I am in my element. It has always pleased me to cook, feed and assist in the cleaning of Thanksgiving. I just love it. And as the years have gone on, I have gotten Eric more involved in the preparation of dinner and desserts. It is great that he and I can work together in the kitchen. Now, he isn't in there with me on the day, but the days leading up to it, he is making pumpkin pies, cornbread for the dressing, and even that morning he has been known to make the cranberry relish. I just love it!

When Eric came around in 1995, we had said that when he was old enough that we were going to start working in a soup kitchen or shelter for Thanksgiving. Then PJ came along and that set us back a few years.

This year I told Chuck that I wanted Thanksgiving just the 4 of us. Not that I am tired of cooking and cleaning for the entire family. But my dad and his wife will be in Baton Rouge this year, and Chuck's sister and her family are going up to visit her husband's grandmother, this very well may be her last Thanksgiving. So that leaves Chuck's parents and us. Not that I mind cooking for 6 people, but I just would like a peaceful, uneventful Thanksgiving.

Last night we were talking. Chuck told me that since I had mentioned about having just the 4 of us for Thanksgiving that maybe we can find a shelter to work at for the day and then hit Cracker Barrel for dinner that night.

He said that the boys are old enough now, and that this would be good for all of us to get a wake up call. It would be good for the boys to learn how to volunteer and help others. I feel this would be a good experience for all of us.

So, this morning, I am on the phone calling around looking for some place here in town to go to. There is nothing in Cleveland on Thanksgiving Day that serves a meal. Last year, our church, with lots of help, rented out a dining hall and had free dinner for families in need. This was on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and the boys and I helped out. This was a little different, they weren't homeless people.They had homes, but a meal like a Thanksgiving dinner just wasn't gonna happen for them. I remember Eric leaving the house Monday morning, "tomorrow's the day, tomorrow's the day!" I didn't know what he was talking about, "Tomorrow is the day that we help feed the people that won't get Thanksgiving. Isn't it nice that we are helping the ones that need it more than we do?!" Wow, what do you say when your 11 year old looks at you like that?

We had linen table clothes, china, and real silverware. They treated them like we would like to have a dinner for ourselves. The table had candles and centerpieces. I saw all kinds of people come in. And it broke my heart that there were so many in need. I remember one family in particular. They barely had clothes on their back. She grabbed my hand, and with tears in her eyes, she told me thank you. She pointed to her children that weren't getting Christmas this year, but she was so grateful that she had a hot meal that day, and that her kids were fed. It turns out, that they did have Christmas. The Dr. that put this one had kids fill out a wish list and then he would have people in the community pitch in and help all the kids to have a Christmas.

Yes, this year the boys and I will go do that again. I hope not to see the same people, but most likely will. But it is such a good experience for them to help others. Instead of me helping them with things, they get to help people that need it more than they do.

But we are also going to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen or the Salvation Army to help the truly needy. The homeless or the ones that just can't put food on their table no matter what day it is.

It was rewarding for the boys last year to help in the situation that they helped in. Eric helps feed the needy at church on Sundays and he loves it. It blesses me to see him so blessed. But for us as a family to do this, to help out, to realize that we are so very blessed in our lives, well, it will probably be one of the best Thanksgiving day ever.

Traditions are nice. And for the years that we did have the family over, it was great. But now, as a family of 4, we need to start a new tradition.

Will I miss cooking everything that takes me 3 days to make? I sure will. Will I miss the smell of turkey in the kitchen, the laughter in the living room, the kids in the yard? Yes, I will. But there are others that need to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner too. There won't be china with silverware and crystal on the tables.There won't be linen tableclothes and padded chairs. There won't be music or football playing in the background. But there will be a lot of smiles, thank yous and tears.

I am so ready for a wonderful holiday season. And I am so thankful that I have a family that is more than willing to do what it takes to make a day great.