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A look back...and ahead

November 19, 2012 - Kristy MacKaben
Right about this time every year when I was a kid, I would get giddy....completely overjoyed. Thanksgiving was my absolute favorite time of year. Of course I loved Christmas just like every other kid, but Thanksgiving was always so special in our family. The traditions date back to about five years before I was born...around the time my dad's parents moved to Cumberland, a small town in western Maryland, (about an hour away from Altoona.) My dad was one of five children, so our Thanksgiving celebrations were never small. In the early years we all gathered at Grandma's house before dinner, dressed in our holiday attire. While Grandma and all the moms, aunts and older girl cousins cooked, the dads, uncles and cousins played games and watched football. (Yes. I know that's sexist, but hey. It was the 70s.) Once it was time for dinner we gathered around the big formal dining room table and Grandad would say a heartfelt blessing, as we all bowed our heads. As a kid, you didn't dare make a peep or even open your eyes during the prayers, and you ate every last morsel on your plate. That probably sounds old fashioned, but that's the way it was. After dinner we continued the games and socializing. I'm not sure of the exact year this happened, but along the way, our games of ping pong, bumper pool and Connect Four morphed into major tournaments, complete with brackets and prizes--(Grandad's silver dollars). I never won one of those silver dollars---the older cousins were too hard to beat, but that day was the best day of the entire year. No other day did my entire family gather in one place. And, there were Christmas carols with my aunt playing piano and dressing up in older cousins' prom dresses and playing our instruments to an eager crowd. It was a magical holiday for our family, full of joy and love. Hardly anyone missed Thanksgiving ever. I remember one of my aunts, who is also my Godmother, would preach to the younger generation about the importance of getting together on Thanksgiving. The years passed, and many of my cousins and I got married, and Thanksgiving seemed to change a little. Some years my cousins would spend Thanksgiving with their inlaws and we started eating Thanksgiving dinner out at a restaurant or country club. It took some getting used to, but times change. We all understood. Then, my Grandma died. (Grandad died when I was 7, but we continued the traditions.) Though Grandma was 89, we were all heartbroken. She was the center of our family and meant everything to us. That first Thanksgiving after she passed away, we all faithfully gathered. Despite feeling a bit downtrodden, we all promised to keep family a priority. Well, life has a way of naturally changing and sometimes traditions become just wonderful memories. For the past few years not many family members have celebrated Thanksgiving in Cumberland, where my parents now live. But, my parents, my sister, my immediate family, and one of our uncles and his family have faithfully carried on the Thanksgiving tradition. For the first time in my life I won't be in Cumberland for Thanksgiving this year. With our move to Chicago in August, it was too hard to coordinate such a quick trip back east so soon. Instead, Scott's family will be visiting, which makes it so much easier to bear the thought of missing Thanksgiving in Cumberland. I'm not sure what future Thanksgivings hold, but I will always cherish Thanksgivings past and I feel so thankful to have experienced such loving celebrations each of my 34 years.

 
 

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