A new generation has arrived in my family and it has nothing to do with the birth of a child. For the first time, a member of a newer branch of the family tree has volunteered to host the family for Thanksgiving dinner. My niece has invited us all to her home in a downtown metropolitan area, providing the address of the parking ramp where we can park our cars. She has asked only that we bring whatever we want for a buffet-style meal and has committed only to providing the ‘protein’ portion of the meal, which may or may not be turkey. She has reserved the party room which has plenty of room for all of us, though not for a large dining table to accommodate everyone. Oh, and there’s a liquor store in the building so we can just pop downstairs to pick up whatever wine we might like to have with our meal.
This is quite a contrast to Thanksgiving celebrations gone-by, where we gathered at a house in the suburbs and you got there early to grab one of the good parking spots in the driveway. Here the smell of roast turkey was the first thing that hit you at the door, backed by the smell of oak burning in the fireplace and quickly forgotten as you climbed over the pile of shoes left by the front door. You handed your assigned food offering to the host and your coat to their spouse, then went looking for a rare spot on a comfy chair or couch to wait for the magic words, ‘come and eat!’ And that meant turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberries, peas, dinner rolls, and a sweet Jell-O-based concoction that only we in the Midwest would call a salad. Oh, and always ending with my favorite, pumpkin pie.
It may seem like I am saying this change is a bad thing, but let me clarify. The first paragraph describes how the next generation will carry on the Thanksgiving family tradition, and since this is new to me I have yet to experience it. I have to admit, I am quite looking forward to it. The second paragraph describes the traditions developed by the previous generations of my family, and so far, that is all I have known. It is full of warmth and memories and roots and it makes my mother very happy to have us all together.
From my vantage point in the generation that lies in between, I can see the beauty in both the old and the new. Whether you gather in a downtown condo or a rural rambler, eat roast turkey or ‘tofurkey,’ the important parts of the traditions continue: you gather with your family, you eat too much food, and you are reminded of all the things there are to be thankful for. Old traditions fade, making way for new ones to be started, and the spirit of the tradition continues no matter how or where you celebrate.
The spirit of this holiday is thankfulness. In that light, let me express our appreciation for you and your organization, and the role you play in making our world a better place. We are thankful for you and what you do.