My mother and my aunt were as different as the decade of life between them. But when they were together, the laughter rang through the house, the coffee flowed freely, and love filled the air. It is that laughter that I miss on Thanksgiving. Their simple joy in being together and sharing their families was warm, and that warmth is what I remember more than anything. And it is what I miss the most.
In my memory, the year following my mother’s death was just awful. There’s no other way to describe what my 22 year-old self went through. My relationships suffered. My self esteem plummeted. My decision-making skills took a dive, and my formal education came to a screeching halt. Fast forward one year to Thanksgiving and a New England blizzard. My father and two of my brothers (and quite possibly my third brother and my sister-in-law) were in our hometown at my childhood home for the holiday. There wasn’t a lot of cheer. My mother had died over the Thanksgiving weekend the year before, and the whole holiday, my favorite, seemed ominous. We had always shared Thanksgiving with my Aunt Marge and our Greenville cousins, either at our house or at theirs. And my Aunt Marge invited us this year just as in years past. The snow and wind were almost welcome visitors. I vividly remember our drive through the country, over the bridges, through the woods, skidding our way through the storm in a Country Squire station wagon. I don’t know who was driving, either my Dad or one of my brothers…definitely not me.
That Thanksgiving of 1985 was filled with the warmth and love of Thanksgivings past, filled not with my mother and her sister, but with the love of cousins, the love of my aunt, the loss of my mother, my aunt Germaine and my Pepere, the quirkiness of our family, the flavors of our French Canadian cuisine, and the footprints of all our Thanksgivings past. It was the last one we all spent together. And I remember the kitchen. I remember the warmth. I remember the love. And those are the memories of Thanksgiving that matter the most.
Rachel and Marge, they did good. They created joy. They created laughter. They passed down a love that will survive as long as we let it.