By Erin Knightley
This year, my hubby and I will be avoiding the Thanksgiving traffic jams, and are opting to stay home for Turkey day. We’re thrilled to avoid the nearly ten hour drive to our hometown, even if it does mean missing out on time with our loved ones. And it’s not like we won’t see them—the world is a better place through the magic of Skype and FaceTime :)
When I was young, however, staying home wasn’t an option. Oh no, every year we would pack up the car and take the 800 mile trek up to see my mother’s family in the suburbs of Chicago.
This was in the days before minivans, personal game devices, and that miracle known as the DVD/TV combo. It was just me, my older siblings, and my parents jammed into a car like the poor schmucks we were, pretending to like travel Yatzie minus two die and lap-top card games of War and Go Fish.
The trip seemed utterly interminable, but eventually we would pull into my grandparents short driveway, not even coming to a full stop before the doors were thrown open and we exploded from the car like popped corn.
Once inside, the familiar sound of football was the soundtrack to our reunion as everyone hugged Nana and Papa, and us kids covertly scouted out the ever-present candy dishes. There, sugar coated gumdrops and forbidden mini candy bars languished, calling to us like the sirens they were. To us, the consumers of whole wheat bread and all natural peanut butter, my grandparent’s house was the Mecca of all things deliciously bad for us.
Wildwood cream soda would soon appear, blue and red striped bendy straws poking from their open tops. Salami sandwiches were next, complete with Italian dressing and insanely delicious white bread. Even as we ate these sinful treats, my sister and I would already be focused on the next morning—Thanksgiving!—when we’d wake up to a box of Dunkin Donuts, procured by our Papa and complete with the cream filled powdered donuts that were surely the most wonderful things on the planet.
With powdery lips, full bellies, and the waning sounds of the Macy’s parade in the background, we’d get ready to head to my uncle’s house, where even more family awaited. There, the aroma of turkey greeted us before we even opened the door, as did the whirl of a hand mixer and the din of laughter. Our cousins, seen once a year like clockwork, would greet us at the door, and the rest of the afternoon would be a game of dodging responsibilities, namely setting the table and carrying folding chairs from the basement.
The food would be plentiful, the conversation boisterous, and the passage of time inevitable. This yearly ritual, repeated for at least a decade, would set the bar for Thanksgivings for the rest of my life. It’s been years since I’ve made it back to Chicago, and even longer since I was a carefree kid, happy to enjoy the moments that would linger in my memories for the rest of my life, but I’ll never forget those trips of yesteryear.
This year, I may not repeat the traditions of my childhood, but I’ll certainly be thinking about them. As my husband and dear friend join me at my own dining room table, I’ll be happy to make more memories to look back on years from now. Although. . . just for fun, I may see if I can talk my husband into an early morning Dunkin Donuts run ;)