Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All Roads Lead to Home

Thanksgiving has taken its time, but has become my favorite of holidays. My mom died on Thanksgiving Day...and so, for years, it was a day of great grief and sadness in our small home in New Jersey. I was not quite four at the time, so many of the real memories of her evade me even now. But I'll never forget the tears in my dad's eyes when he'd lift me up on his knee. How hard it must've been for him!

One of the first Thanksgiving memories I have was the one in which my sister Dub's teacher game for dinner. I remember her name...Mrs. Tozer, Geraldine, and her husband's name, Warren. It was the second Thanksgiving after my mom had died, and the turkey was not defrosted! Who knew? My sister, Carol, was in charge of that stuff at the mere age of twelve. My dad was overseeing it too, of course, but jeesh, none of this seems real to me, even now, a million years after the fact. That turkey was pulled and plunked in and out of cold water baths to defrost it, but no luck! We had hamburgers for dinner instead! I can only imagine my father's shame. But I do remember the Tozers' laughter, and that was enough to pull us all through.

This year, I'll have 49 guests for Thanksgiving, down from the 55 I originally expected. The ranks are shifting. This kind of event is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. Years ago, I joined my husband's family for Thanksgiving...I think I was about 21 or 22 at the time. His family of 8 (plus me) joined the McGowan tribe of 9 and that was how it all began. By the time I joined them, they'd been performing this feast for about eleven years. Now it's been well over forty!

What I remember most about our huge family feasts is not the food, or the exact conversations I've had. It's the welcoming sound of laughter that reverberates off the ceilings and walls and sticks inside the core of my soul. I know it sounds corny, and I've never told any of them this...but when you start out a tradition of grief and sadness, it's hard for a little kid to recover from that. Their laughter shocked me at first, really! But now, I live for that sound.

So tomorrow, there'll be tables upon tables in my great room. There'll be chafing dishes and platters of food. The fire will be lit, the glasses all full and the house will burst at its seams.
And I...will suck it all in for another year...me that little adoptive daughter from New Jersey, with the two families of my dreams. Honestly, sometimes I do have to pinch myself. The laughter, the love and the being together...that combination can honestly heal anything! And even though I won't be with my own siblings and my parents too, they're never too far from my heart.


7 comments:

Laurie Smith Murphy said...

What a story, Gael! Thank you for sharing it with us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. We get to slow down for a day and surround ourselves with family and food and laughter. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Mary Aalgaard said...

What a great story. I can feel the crowds gathering and hear the laughter. So sorry for your loss. Of course, it put a dark cloud over Thanksgiving. Glad you have people in your life to celebrate and give thanks.

gael lynch said...

Laurie and Mary...how lucky am I to have the two of you cross my path today! No clouds hanging over this turkey day! I hope the two of you have a wonderful day with your families!

Smileyblueyes said...

Love this entry! Happy Thanksgiving, to my 'leprechaun sister'. I am so delighted to hear you have assimilated deeply with your "adopted" family and are finally free to let those memories out. I love you Gael. Your beautiful smile and fun laughter have graced so many lives. But what I think about is the memories we share laced with love AND laughter.
I hope you are relaxing after a full day of the life glue. I know I am...
Keep on writing. xxx D

gael lynch said...

Di! How great to see your smiling face. What laughs we shared! I think about all those times and the 'escape' it gave me from some of the crazy realities inside my house. One thing I'm always grateful for is the fact I was always loved and well-cared for, and always had just what I needed...and still do! Yesterday was wonderful! The sound of all that laughter is still ringing in my ears! Life is good.

Tim said...

Wow Gael. This was wonderful! I Hope your day went well and you relaxed afterwards.

gael lynch said...

It was a great day, Tim! The turkey came out of the turkey right on time, everyone pitched in with the meal, and before the last person pulled out of the driveway, every table and chair and almost all the dishes were clean! But...best of all, the stories and all the laughter are still somehow ringing inside my ears!

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