A Christmas throwback, but with turkey
November 26th, 2011
We spent Thanksgiving at my aunt’s house in Cincinnati and it was fabulous. At our peak, we had eighteen folks milling around the house, four of them under the age of six. Miss Mouse and Buggie connected with a pair of second cousins they rarely see and were over the moon. I connected with a pair of first cousins I rarely see and was over the moon. Josh was fed a variety of strange and unusual foods, but he survived.
What was particularly cool about this trip was that it felt like Christmas from my childhood. Every year, my mother’s siblings (three sisters and a brother) and their kids would gather at my grandparents house for the holidays. It was everything you could want as a kid: games and singing and cookies and putting on plays and sledding and dogs and cousins and so much love it radiated from the windows and probably kept the neighbors awake.
As we’ve gotten older, the family still gathers, but we rarely all manage to be in the same place at the same holiday. It’s just harder now with more people and more in-laws to juggle and more distance between us. And, as we got older, the holidays naturally became more “grown up.” Still fun, but a bit less foolishness as my cousins and I slowly morphed into adults.
But now we’re on round two because there’s a new crop of little people stampeding around the house. Having kids around again and a full house of family (four of five of the siblings made it for turkey day) made the visit particularly magical.
We went for walks in the neighborhood and clambered around on a nearby playground, seeing which grownup dared attempt to wedge themselves into the tube slide while Miss Mouse shrieked and egged us on.
I watched my cousin patiently collect leaves with Miss Mouse and help her iron them between layers of waxed paper for a beautiful craft. And I nearly died laughing as Buggie attempted to play “duck duck goose” with his older cousins, waddling purposefully around the room after them as they raced in circles.
We all crowded around the kitchen table to decorate gingerbread houses, the adults carefully creating “terracotta” roof tiles out of sliced gum drops while the kids joyously and haphazardly slathered icing and candy bits onto all available surfaces (including the table).
There was music, of course. When my family gathers, music ensues. My ninety-one-year-old grandpa and my mom and uncle performed a few numbers that included violin, piano, voice, guitar, and harmonica at various points. And we all sang a few Christmas carols because — why not? Watching Buggie toddle around from lap to lap brought back a lot of memories of wrangling my younger cousins at holidays gone by.
And we ate. A lot. There was soup and homemade bread and turkey and mashed potatoes and baked goods by the thousands. Scones and muffins and cookies and fudge and quick breads. Egg casseroles in the morning and honey-baked ham sandwiches at whatever hour you needed to munch on something.
After the kids were in bed, the grown-ups talked politics and played a few fast and furious rounds of Bananagrams, my cousins and I shuffling our tiles frantically while our parents looked on and shouted out suggestions.
It was awesome. It’s exactly what I want from my holidays. And it’s a big part of why I have always wanted to have a big family. Holidays are meant to be shared. You’re supposed to cram your house full of food and family and laughter because you know that the memories you’re creating are what it’s all about.