For years Thanksgiving in my family went like this: Thursday was spent at my Aunt Joyce’s and Uncle Ron’s home. Friday my family would cut down a Christmas tree, and then we’d all go to my Aunt Lucy’s and Uncle Bill’s for pizza.
At Joyce’s, we sat around a ping-pong table, though you’d never know it because Joyce draped a pretty tablecloth and set out handwritten name cards where we were to sit. I always liked looking for my name, though I knew I’d sit next to my cousin Tara on the piano bench. I loved how pretty Joyce made my name. She’d draw a little flower on the “e” and the end of “Callie.” Its petals were purple.
Joyce decorated the table with wildflowers she picked in the field that seemed to go on forever in the back of her home. Wheat stalks, Queen Anne’s lace, and little buttercups were put in vases and set on the table.
Joyce loved making wreaths and drying flowers. Flowers tied with tulle ribbon hung upside down on a pegboard. Sticks she’d found on her walks lay on a thick wooden table, and I always wondered how Joyce curved them into wreaths without snapping them.
My brother Geoff and I loved our family tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree because we grew up in the Chicagoland area, and everyone we knew got their trees from hardware stores. Not us, we bragged. We went to the forest — to the country! — to get ours.
West Michigan, the place my aunts and grandma resided, was an area primarily occupied by the Dutch. The Dutch are very nice people. I married a Dutchman, and so far, it’s been working out just fine. However, my Mediterranean blood is different than Northern European blood, and it’s not that they shouldn’t mix. It just makes life interesting.
We Greek-Armenians are loud. We are loud getting out of the car, slamming doors, and yelling for our relatives across the parking lot. We don’t care as much about getting a tree as about playing tag or hide and seek across a white and dark green landscape.
Geoff, who was the youngest in our clan, came up with a game around the time he was in sixth grade. What you did was make a snowball and point to a spot where you would throw it. Different points were assigned depending on how close your snowball got to its destination. It didn’t matter where you threw the snowball — near, far, high, low — but the thing you had to do was scream, “OPA!” at the top of your lungs as you threw it. I’m sure some of the Dutch got hit; it’s probable they were my future in-laws.
Afterwards, we went to Lucy and Bill’s, who ordered boxes of pizza. Lucy filled the basement fridge with pop and beer, and we played pool, ping-pong, Pictionary, and watched movies. Every year, I spent the night at Lucy’s with my cousin Tara. The last time was in 1998. I was less than two months from getting married.
That Thanksgiving, after dinner was over, and I was helping to clear the table, I asked Joyce if she would do the flowers for my wedding. I was nervous asking. I’ve always been intimidated by my aunt, but I also loved her flower creations, and wanted them to be a part of the wedding. I liked that she didn’t seem to follow a specific design, and I often wondered if the things she made represented something on her walks that she thought or wondered about. Maybe she put something to rest. I wasn’t interested in a certain color or type of flower for my wedding. I just wanted what she had to share.
Joyce seemed to fight a smile when I asked, and she didn’t say she’d do it, but she did tell me she knew where a large patch of lavender lay beyond her yard.
At our wedding, the purple popped against the January greenery she’d placed in each vase at the center of the tables.
What memories — of food, family, friends, and other scenes — do you associate with Thanksgiving? Write a poem capturing a Thanksgiving scene.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Sandra that we enjoyed.
We were delighted to see the red and blue, heavy
blown glass rooster “gift” left for us on move-in
until we discovered
it roosted on an egg-shaped hole
in the counter’s formica that had been
camouflaged with a candy dish during staging.
Well, that was depressing.
Today my mother-in-law’s amber-gold glass
hen-on-her-nest vintage candy dish nests atop
that grayed depression.
Even more depressing,
at least for some,
the dish remains empty
in spite of the fact my daughter told her girls
“that dish always holds M&Ms.”
The day granite (or quartz)
makes all things new
my daughter will inherit that chicken
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