Today is Thanksgiving Day 2016 and I’m sitting at home in my PJs, on my computer, in between household tasks of cleaning and laundry. Sudden flashes of memory distract me. A distant crackle of laughter. Family saying hello. Literal flashes from the camera as I stand with my cousins to capture the memories. The kitchen filled with warmth and love and food. My aunt and our helper Zumra buzzing about trying to get everything ready and set to serve. More guest. More hellos. A home filled with love, happiness, family and warmth. It didn’t matter if one stood in the kitchen with all the noise and clanking of dishes or if one stood to the side. The air was filled with a feeling. The feeling of togetherness, love and family. Of course, I could be standing there and watching this and there would be yet another interruption. When are we playing games? Of course, it wouldn’t be my family if that question didn’t come up. There would be whines of, “not now” and there would be, “Let’s get started. Everyone come on. Sit down.”, “what are we playing?”, “not that again!” and of course there would be, “where’s the tea?” Yes, it would be a hodgepodge. My favorite is “Hold my space, I’m coming.” and of course 30 minutes later we are still waiting. Alas, a beep distracts me. I had travelled into a memory from Thanksgivings before. I’m not there now. I’m still in my PJs at home. The beep means the laundry is done.
It feels strange. Very strange. This will be my first Thanksgiving alone. We all have gone our separate ways. My aunt moved to San Diego. A friend here had her dog spayed so we couldn’t really do a party there. I’ve been too busy. I’ve craved time on my own. My parents figured it would be good to take some time off by themselves. I think 2 of my cousins are getting together and my other cousin will spend Thanksgiving with her married family. My niece went back home to Oklahoma. What can I say? She might have been the only person who could have convinced me to have Thanksgiving at my home but with her not being in town, that leaves me here, alone to my thoughts.
I think about the past and change. I know I’ve written about it. This is a big one.
I don’t remember the first year we formally did Thanksgiving. I know it was a long time ago. I know I was invited and no one else. Then the next year the whole family was invited. There was only one turkey. It was not enough. The years after it has been 2 turkeys to feed the whole family of about 30 of us. We went through a phase of people not wanting turkey. Somewhere, someone felt we were more “Indian” and we should do “Indian food”. I remember thinking, “screw them!” I was angry then. I couldn’t understand how ungrateful some of us were. The effort it took to put on a full Thanksgiving meal was met with “why Turkey?” “Why don’t you do biryani?” and if my memory serves me right, one Thanksgiving someone brought an “Indian dish” or maybe I can’t remember. We went through that phase. There’s always the process of growth.
Now, like a flower that grows from a bud to full bloom and its petals wither away, our family Thanksgiving tradition has withered away. That is life.
This kind of change is not new to me although I feel this one the most acutely. I remember growing up in India and going to my grandparent’s home. They lived in a mansion (I didn’t know it then) and had groves of mango trees. I remember my cousins and I would walk around the mansion and talk like only little girls could about things we thought were life changing. I smile and reminisce about those days. Here I am almost 35 years later. My grandparents had passed away in my teens and the mansion was torn down and an apartment complex was built in its place with the remaining children getting their share of an apartment. I still have trouble fathoming that. Why couldn’t they declare the building as a historic site and renovate for tours? I guess, that’s the American in me. Or maybe I want to preserve a slice of an era. Regardless, that building went down and it was the end of an era for me.
Now, today, it’s the end of another. What will life hold in the future? How many more eras will end and how many more will begin? I don’t know. I, for one, will be grateful for being here and being able to see all this change. And of course, I’m grateful for the memories.
Best wishes all, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving,