Guest Post by Elizabeth Atalay, Documama.org
The seeds for my ideal Thanksgivings were planted in other peoples’ homes. That is not to say that my childhood Thanksgivings were unpleasant. My most prominent memory is my brother and I, the two children, retreating to the den of my aunts’ delicately decorated house to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after the meal.
It’s more that with our small family came small, quiet, refined Thanksgivings. Even more so after my father died when I was thirteen. I never knew any different until I first joined a friend for the holiday when I was in college. There were four kids in their family plus girlfriends, boyfriends an aunt, and the two parents, putting ten of us around the table that we had collectively set. Instead of the quiet chess games my father and uncle had played during my childhood Thanksgivings, football roared on the T.V. in the other room along with the cheers. I had loved the atmosphere that day in the kitchen, preparing the meal together, chatting, snacking, and drinking all the while.
The whole day felt like a party to me. As I looked around that table I remember thinking, this is what I want. I had always wanted to have at least four kids, but that holiday meal sealed the deal. I thought to myself, if this is what I want, as a woman, I have the power to make it happen. I could see how those four kids meant four future families, and future grandchildren and in my mind I could project what future holiday meals would look like in that house. The seeds had been planted, and my future thanksgivings began to grow.
These days when I look around my own holiday table I am truly flooded with gratitude, and awe. I never took for granted that my desire for my own big family would actually come true. I knew the tremendous good fortune it would take to find the right mate of course to make all of this possible.
Over the years we have been incredibly blessed by the births of our own four children who have filled our home with love. When I look around the table, I know that my dream is still evolving, that although I am still doing almost all the work on my own, the kids are slowly, one by one beginning to help me too, to become real company as we work side by side to create a holiday meal.
I know that this dream is something that I need to continually nurture and create, not one that can be rushed, but one to be cherished every year, every step of the way. Over time I know that the traditions that we build with our family will be the greatest investment we ever make. We keep our meal traditional with our annual favorites of steaming popovers and pecan encrusted sweet potato casserole, an occasional recipe with flair but the real moment for me is when I look around the table and reflect on how truly and deeply thankful I am for my family.