Thanksgiving has always been a favorite "holiday" for me growing up. When I was quite young Fritzi and Teddy hosted it at their house on Long Island (I cannot for the life of me remember the town, maybe Kings Point?) and it was quite a huge, decadent affair. I am certain Fritzi did not cook a single dish as she had a live in maid and a living room large enough for two grand pianos. All the children got a present and people carried trays of hors oeuvres like shrimp through the rooms. Did I mention most of my family did not keep kosher?
There are some missing years between the hazy days of luxury and the abundant spread in Montclair NJ when Judy and David took over the hosting responsibility. The missing years are annoying but a fact of my life. Many years later I realized that the first year there was the year my siblings were born which is cool because I have carried an image from that day for decades. Sitting quietly on a chair, wearing a light blue denim shirt with a cloth gracefully draped from her shoulder Fran sat nursing one of them. I suppose as the day ran on each of them had a turn in that chair. They had been born three and a half weeks before, still tiny and from what I remember mostly silent. I loved that house; it was a huge Victorian farmhouse style with many rooms, two staircases (maybe that's where my obsession came from) and a carousel horse on the front porch. They have moved twice since that place and have the most amazing converted grange hall in Hebron CT that I would love for TGF to see. I think she would fall in love with the place. Also it would be a kick to have her and Judy meet.
Over the years the attendance waxed and waned, finally waning a lot. There were always "non-family" present at this celebration (and for our family sedars), a practice that imprinted deeply and passionately on my consciousness. Family, friends, and celebrations are things to be intertwined. There are no such boundaries if it means someone is alone. Someone who has no home base for christmas, chanukah, july 4th, whatever - you open your home to them.
My "family" thanksgiving passed away, doesn't exist, it ended about two years ago. People have died, moved, drifted, reformulated with the addition of new generations. Moving to the west coast meant I hardly returned east. I think I managed it once in the six years I lived there. It was small and though I noticed it I think I avoided acknowledging what this really meant for the future. Judy kept a notebook, jotting down who attended and what was served for all of the 28 or so years she hosted our gatherings. This document is probably very bare bones but I treasure the thought of it because there is so little written anywhere about my family. Many people who knew the stories have died, the rest of us have not taken pen to paper. We do not see each other often enough to have an oral tradition of retelling tales of journeys made, alliances built and feuds born.
The last two years in the Bay Area we had started a rough tradition of getting together with some of our "family of choice" out there. As today came closer it was hard to think about the people I wouldn't be spending the day with, like Sue & Sarah, Liz & Andrea and all the kids in their families. The amazing thing I realized was that I had begun to formulate my own "family" traditions with TGF and though I had moved away from another "family", I take great strength in realizing my ability to create celebrations and rituals.