I will never forget the Thanksgiving play performed by us non thespian cousins. It was the classic Thanksgiving story with Indians and Pilgrims. Being eight, I was the oldest, and got to be the Indian Chief, Laughing Tree. My black hair was tied into braids as was my cousin’s whom we called Still Water. My sister and all the other cousins with blonder hair were the pilgrims. The girls had bonnets and the boys had knockers.
While the Thanksgiving meal was prepared, we dedicated all our efforts to scripting the play. Being the oldest it was my duty to write down the script. I would accept some advice from my younger cousins, but it was basically up to me. We would huddle in the laundry room for hours donning our makeup and costumes and practicing our lines.
When the time came, the parents and grandparents laden with aperitifs would take their seats on the couches. It was our time to shine and we always did. We knew that play inside out and did our routine for several years. We added more jokes and scenes to it as we got older.
Finally, a Thanksgiving came when we were too old. I remember it like I remember finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real. It hurt because it meant change and growing up. I spent last Thanksgiving in France where it is not celebrated and barely even known about. My host family made some turkey and potatoes on November 17, a week before the actual holiday. A nice gesture, but not only did it lack cranberry sauce, stuffing, and a pumpkin pie, it lacked my family. This year I will have a Thanksgiving surrounded by family.
We’re a very close-knit family. On my mother’s side of the family I have 12 first cousins and 28 second cousins. Every year until the death of my grandparents we spent Thanksgiving at their house in Tennessee. I will miss our play and my grandparents, but part of healing and growing is to accept losses and changes. No matter where I am, Thanksgiving will always mean family. I’ll always remember us cousins indulging the adults with our annual pageant of the Pilgrims and Indians.
Every year on my birthday I know I can expect a call from my aunts, uncles and cousins, not just wishing me a Happy Birthday, but singing the entire song at the top of their lungs, off key, and laughing on speakerphone.
I believe in the power of family. No one knows me better than my family. I don’t even have to utter a word and they’ll ask what’s wrong. They have watched me grow and loved me unconditionally every step of the way. I believe in my family who has helped shape me into the person that I am. I am lucky because these people will be there for me no matter what mistakes I make and will continue to be there for me until the end.