It's been a year of firsts.
It was the first Thanksgiving in our new house.
It was our first Thanksgiving with a grandson. Little William may not eat a lot of turkey, but having him in the house means extra baby dandling time, and oh how I'm looking to that!
It was our first Thanksgiving with Dylan's girlfriend, Brittani. She's a darling girl, and we enjoy her company.
It's also my first Thanksgiving without my mother.
I remember long ago, when the whole family still gathered at my mother's house, my sister and I decided that the family was getting too big, that it was too much for mom. So we discussed it, the two of us.
My sister went to my mother and the conversation went something like this. "Mom, now that grandkids are getting married, and having kids of their own, we were thinking that it's time for someone else to take over the cooking, and" My sister got no further. My mother said, with increasing emotion, "NO! Thanksgiving has always been at my house, and it's staying at my house, and while there's a breath of life left in me"
My sister reported back to me. "Um. Thanksgiving is at Mom's this year." It was never challenged again.
After my mother's funeral, Cara said to me, "I worry about losing track of the cousins. I really have some great cousins." She does, too. They are mostly all grown up, and they have brought new people into the family. Now there are the adorable children to run around. The family runneth over. 12 cousins, if I have counted correctly, and a goodly number of them married and with children of their own.
I was talking to my sister the other day and the topic came up. What are we going to do with the holidays this year? My strange and broken family has pretty much gone their own way. There is no fixing the situation. Everyone knows what everyone else is thinking. Everyone knows how everyone feels. No one listens. Bellowed accusations and finger pointing. Petty jealousies and judgemental attitudes divide us all, and there will be no healing. My sister and I discussed the holidays and there were no illusions.
I said, "You know, what happens next is up to us. We are the elders in the family now. The traditions will be made by us." For me, it was kind of a profound realization: 'We are the elders now.' How did that even happen?
Anna and I talked about cookie baking parties. We talked about post holiday parties. Two sisters planned, trying to create special moments to tie the remnants of our families together. Our goal is to give them a heritage, to provide the stories that will be passed to a new generation, to create memories and build bonds.
I will be the 4th of July aunt now that we live in town. Our big back yard will be waiting after the parade. There will be a picnic, and poppers for the kids, noise and laughter. There will be places for the babies to have afternoon naps in big shady rooms where curtains blow in the breeze. Our house will be the place where people go to spend the time between the town's parade, and the fireworks that do not happen until after dark. I've got it all planned.
It's a weighty responsibility, but the torch has been passed. We are the elders now. What happens next is up to us. We take our family responsibilities very seriously, and as long as there is a breath of life left in us