Holidays Are Like People...

Dinner at My House, Thanksgiving 2002
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)  When I started thinking about our Carnival of Genealogy topic for December, Thanksgiving traditions, it occurred to me that my Thanksgiving holiday celebrations have changed over the years.

When I was little my family and I always had dinner at my aunt Helen Bulak's house.  Auntie Helen and my grandmother shared a duplex house in their later years.  Thanksgiving was always on Auntie's side of the house, and Easter was always on my grandmother's side of the house. Thanksgiving dinner included extended family and involved a fancy dinner table set with Auntie's Lenox china.  There was turkey, of course, a special Polish poultry dressing made with turkey or chicken livers (which for the longest time I did not like), mashed potatoes, glazed sweet potatoes, broccoli with Polish crumbs, gravy, cranberry sauce from a can, and apple pie with ice cream for dessert.  Auntie Helen always made the turkey while my mom and my grandmother supplied everything else.

One of my favorite things was and still is broccoli with Polish crumbs or "garnish Polonaise," as I heard Julia Child call it once.  Things always sound better in French, don't they?  Polish crum...oops...I mean "garnish Polonaise" is a garnish made from dried bread crumbs which are browned in butter in a pan on the stove top until they take on a toasted flavor and a crunchy texture.  Sprinkled over broccoli or most other vegetables they are delicious.  It's amazing how something so simple can liven up a dish!

As long as my dad and my grandmother were still with us we continued to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.  By 1990 Dad and Gram were both gone, and I was busy with work and graduate school.  Rather than cook dinner at home Mom and I decided to start having Thanksgiving dinner out, a tradition which we carried on for a number of years.  

After I had a family of my own I cooked dinner at our house.  I made the traditional favorites--turkey, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry-orange relish, and my personal favorite, stuffing.  Mom joined us for Thanksgiving for as long as she was physically able.  Mom died three years ago, so now we join my husband's family in upstate New York for the holiday.

Grandmother's House (My Mother-in-Law's Family Homestead, Photo Circa 1900)
I love Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  We usually have dinner at my sister-in-law's house.  She and her family still live on the old family homestead. My mother-in-law's Ladd ancestors built the house around 1800, and the Ladd family has lived there ever since.  Again, we have all the traditional dishes--turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry-orange relish.  My mother-in-law is a pie baker of awesome talent.  She makes apple pie and butternut squash pie for dessert.  This year my son had fun helping Grandma make cranberry-orange relish!

I often think back to the wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations of my childhood.  I miss my parents and grandmother profoundly during the holidays.  My life has changed, but I enjoy Thanksgiving with my son and my husband and his family.  My in-laws are incredibly kind and welcoming. I feel like I'm part of their family now. 

Holidays are like people.  Time passes, and people change.  I've changed.  My Thanksgivings now aren't any better or any worse.  They are just different.

Submitted for the 112th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Reflecting On My American Experience this Thanksgiving
What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck
Not So Wordless Wednesday: View From Grandmother's House
A Little Slice of Heaven


Gini said...

Beautiful Thanksgiving table setting. My mom was one that set her table just the same. I love that tradition. A wonderful post and I know what you mean about how things have changed . . . it's very different not having your parents and grandparents but our children and extended family make the holidays special too.

Carol said...

Great memories and love the photo of the home.

Kristin said...

Now I'm thinking about how holidays change and feeling a little sad, missing all those that won't be here for the holidays. Guess I better enjoy those who are.

Jasia said...

Ok, Polish crumbs or "garnish Polonaise" is new to me. Sounds good and I think I'll give it a try! You have my mouth watering after describing all that food, lol! Thanks for participating in the COG, Cynthia!

Joan said...

Cynthia, I particularly love your last paragraph. A thought that we so often forget. Thanks for the reminder.

Susan Clark said...

You have, as you often do, sparked a flood of memories and thoughts with your words. You are completely correct about the changes. Beautifully done.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Gini - Thank you for your compliment on the table setting. I imagine your mom did create beautiful table settings. She seems to have had quite a flair for making things lovely. Your photos of her decorations are always wonderful.

Carol - Thanks for your comment! They are great memories, and I love the photo of my in-law's home as well. The house still looks pretty much the same.

Kristin - I think holiday time can be a sad time for many people. It's easy to get caught up in all the losses and forget what we have now. The best thing is to figure out a way to appreciate the present without forgetting or dwelling on the past. I know this is sometimes easier said than done.

Jasia - Do try the "garnish Polonaise!" Totally delish! It's interesting how people from the same or similar ethnic backgrounds often have different food traditions. Maybe ethnic/regional food variations would make a good COG topic sometime. I always enjoy participating in the COG!

Joan - Thank you! I think it is easy to forget. I do it myself. Sometimes I think we all need a little reminder.

Susan - Thank you so much! One of the reasons I love the Carnival of Genealogy so much is it makes me think (and write) about topics I might not otherwise. Sometimes we need a little jostle from someone (Thank you, Jasia!) to clarify and articulate what we might not say otherwise.