I began my memoir writing with a longish piece about Thanksgiving traditions. The topic had been on my mind since the previous November when my eldest son asked for verification of his memory of getting up at three a.m. to help me put the turkey in the oven. His girlfriend had a hard time believing that we would do that. My son explained that we took the cooked turkey to the beach, but that whole tradition of hauling Thanksgiving dinner to the beach every year, so vivid in my memory, was a bit of a blur to him.
So I wrote about all of the Thanksgivings I could remember – which, of course, took me
back to my childhood and those overcrowded tables, the time my mother forgot to serve me amidst the crush of relatives, my grandmother’s Millinocket Chocolate Cake with thick fudge frosting, etc. I wrote about how I hated being cooped up inside with too many people and the unfairness of the women having to clean up after dinner while the men napped. And I savored the memory of grilled turkeys sandwiches the way my father always made them – still the best part of any Thanksgiving feast if you ask me.
I wrote about how our first Thanksgiving on the beach came to be – moving from New England to southern California had a lot to do with it – and how dinner expanded over the years from turkey sandwiches from the supermarket to the chef (me) and assistant chef (one of my three sons) arising at three a.m. so the turkey would be ready to take to the beach by ten.
I loved that two-hour writing session – recalling the friends and relatives who joined us for Thanksgiving at our special location in Goleta each year; remembering with fondness the search, with my three little boys, in the nearby brush and on the beach for branches, seed pods and sea shells to decorate our Thanksgiving picnic table. I remembered the year when my son Reed and I sewed up a lovely Thanksgiving tablecloth and napkins, which we used for several years and which, I believe, are now stored in our horse trailer in Arizona.
And I wrote about the dissolution of our Thanksgiving tradition as the boys grew too old to spend the day at the beach with Mom and Dad, and football on TV prevailed.
Those Thanksgivings on the beach and all the fuss that went into creating them are happy memories for me. And now, because I spent two hours with my fingers on a keyboard while my mind wandered down Memory Lane, those experiences are preserved. The piece is a first draft; it needs editing but at least the memories are written down. My children might someday enjoy reading them; I hope to enjoy reading them, or having them read to me in my dotage.
And who knows, maybe when I get back to Arizona, I’ll dig out that tablecloth and those napkins. Perhaps we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving on a beach again one of these years.
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