Better by far you should forget and smile, than remember and be sad.
- Christina Rossetti
With apologies to Lydia Maria Child and her classic, Over the River and Through the Woods, like thousands of other grandparents last week, I drove over the highways and through the towns to spend Thanksgiving Day with my children and theirs.
Coming home after the sumptuous feast to a house without pots and pans in the sink, or the aroma of leftover turkey in the air, I began making comparisons:
Were the holidays better when I cooked the turkey and trimmings myself and the children and grandchildren came to me? Would I like things to be as they were when I was a child and we - literally - drove through the white and drifted snow to my grandmothers house? Or are the holidays better now?
To which of the time zones in my life, I wondered, would I award the prize, Best in Holiday Show?
Several Thanksgivings ago, during the emptying of my nest and before my children had children of their own, I was doing some holiday reminiscing for my son. I told him about the relatives coming from out-of-state, and the gang of uncles and cousins trudging to a nearby pond to skate.
I talked about the four kinds of pie - dessert was always pie - and all the helpings we could have, and the makeshift way we fit everyone around the table. Some of us would sit on a board balanced between the flour barrel and a same-level box or stool, and someone else always sat on the piano stool.
But after the dishes were done and the skaters had returned from the cold, the highlight of the day for me was that moment when someone carried the piano stool back to its accustomed place, flute or violin cases popped open, and we all thumbed through song books and opera scores to find something to sing and play together. The year my uncle brought home a harpsichord and invited me to accompany him while he played his flute, I thought was the most magical time of my life so far.
What do you think of that? I asked my son.
How boring! he replied.
I should have known better. As far as he was concerned, if it wasnt rock "n roll, it wasnt music, and if it wasnt football, it wasnt Thanksgiving.
Still, before the football, the rock and roll, and the family downsizing, there were plenty of turkeys yumming their way from my oven to the table.
There were plenty of guests, too, during those military years when lonely GIs were farther from their ancestral homes than we were. Our boys were their little brothers for a day, and my husband and I were stand-ins for other moms and dads.
Occasionally we were near enough some extended family member to celebrate with them, but most of the time we were the family unit now. Though we had enough space and chairs not to need a board or flour barrel - even if we had one - our celebrations, minus the opera scores and skating ponds, were exciting events, too.
So, how much do I miss the cooking, cleaning, and scurrying it takes to have my entourage here? A little, but not enough to wish away the thrill it is to be welcomed into my own childrens homes, and to be invited to eat with them for only the price of bringing a couple home-made pies - the tradition lives - and showing up. I havent had this much time to enjoy a holiday since I was a child.
Holding one grandchild on my lap, finding my name on another childs list of things shes thankful for, and enjoying the laughter in my childrens homes will make my thankful list for days and years to come.
When I finished my best-of-times reverie Thanksgiving night, I had something else to add to my thankful list. Its nice to have good memories, but this year my Oscar goes not to the way things were, but to the way things are now.
That, I think, is what my son was trying to tell me a dozen years ago.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.