Welcome to month ten of the “Who I Am project. This month the prompt is “Traditions,” and like my previous posts, I wrote this as if I were speaking to Eve (and any other children I have in the future).
Every year since I was a teenager, Nana, Grandpa, Auntie Danie, and I have built an annual routine Thanksgiving that makes this day so unlike any other day for us. No matter who is there, it is always the same.
In large part because of this tradition that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
The tradition begins early in the day. Grandpa leaves the house around 8:00 to pick up breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. Either Danie or I or both of us join for the short journey along the nearly deserted roads in the usually bustling New Jersey suburb.
What makes this remarkable and a vital part of the yearly tradition is it is the only time of year we eat Dunkin Donuts as a family. (It may actually be the only time the entire year anyone else in my family eats Dunkin Donuts at all.)
We return home, where the scent of warm coffee rolls and freshly brewed coffee fills the kitchen as we all munch on breakfast.
With full bellies and mugs of steaming coffee, we converge in the living room. We pile on overstuffed couches and easy chairs, just in time to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade kick off on tv. Nana sits with her slippered feet raised up in the easy chair as she reads the newspaper, glasses perched at the edge of her nose, while Grandpa works on a crossword, each stopping now and then to catch a glimpse of the Broadway musical on the screen.
In our typical Halpern fashion, our voices weave into each other’s as we all talk excitedly over one other.
As much as watching the parade is part of our yearly tradition, so is our waning attention. At points, we all abandon the room, though the parade continuously blares from the speaker until its end.
From there it’s time to relax, hang out, and prepare ourselves for Thanksgiving dinner. If the weather is nice — and miraculously, it always seems to be the case — then me, Grandpa, Danie, and Papa, go for a walk. The bright autumn sun shines between the branches of the now-bare trees, warming our backs.
We trod up the street laughing and talking, the remaining crimson, saffron, and orange leaves crunching beneath our feet.
As the afternoon sun begins to give an early hint of its descent, we head back to Nana and Grandpa’s home to finish getting dressed before we all gather in Nana and Grandpa’s living room for our annual family photo session. First, Danie and I converge on the floral couch that has donned the room for as long as it has been furnished. Grandpa takes multiple shots as we angle our faces in different directions until we get one that we can both agree on.
We got different combinations of family members: Nana and Grandpa; you, me, and Papa; all the ladies; Nana and Grandpa holding you. If Baba and Deda are there, then they too are included in the photo extravaganza.
Finally, we all pile into the car and head over to our friends’ home the next town over where a delicious feast has painstakingly been prepared. We arrive in the kitchen, the orchestra of voices increasing in volume as more friends arrive. We embrace one another with welcoming hugs and conversation before the festive meal begins.
We ooh and ahh over the culinary delights as our host explains what everything is. We fill our plates and sit down at our respective rooms to eat — always the living room for Danie, Stefanie, Jojo, Papa, and me. The conversation continues in between bites of heavenly food. We let the food settle into our stomachs before the dessert course, during which Danie and I always share a plate so that we can sample a little of everything.
Soon dinner winds down, and we bundle ourselves up in jackets, scarves, and knit hats, the air outside cool and crisp now that the sun is long gone. We head back to Nana and Grandpa’s, where Danie, Papa, and I watch a movie together, though Danie and I almost always fall asleep.
It is a tradition that continues year after year.
There been exactly one year since the inception of this Thanksgiving tradition that I did no participate, and that was the year you were born, as you were just 11 days old. But since your first birthday, you have been woven into this important tradition, and it feels like you were always there.
The “Who I Am” project is a year-long monthly series that my friend Dana at Kiss My List started as a way to create a virtual scrapbook of your life to tell your kids, grandkids, spouse, friends, or whoever who you are. You can link up our posts, which goes live the third Tuesday of the month, on either of our blogs, and sign up to receive the prompts at the beginning of each month via e-mail. The themes so far have been Childhood, Love, Quirks & Habits, How you’ve changed since you were a child, Favorite Places, Betcha Didn’t Know, Things I Love, and Education.
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