Every year my family gets together. We gather around the Thanksgiving table tell stories and feast. Some of us tell the same stories every year, and the feast—well—the feast is a little different at my house. We have calaloo, rice and peas, ginger beer, carrot juice, and mauby. We have Turkey too, but we also have curry goat, oxtail, and mac-n-cheese. I tell you there is magic happening in that kitchen, and I love filling my belly with it. After dinner, we play this card game called Phase 10. We clear the table, the cards come out, and the gloves come off; but it’s all love. We laugh and we joke, we laugh until tears are coming down our faces. It’s straight foolishness every year. Growing up, I know I took advantage of this. Doing the same thing over and over every year with the same people. I don’t think I realized what we were building was a tradition and that one day things would change.
In 2007 I moved away to college, and every year the ticket prices were too high and the break too short for me to fly back. Just like that a staple in my life changed. No more, ginger beer, no more Phase 10 after dinner, and no more stories. After college, I thought I would get back on track getting home for the Thanksgiving Holiday, but I didn’t. It was nearly impossible to get the time off and after that who knows what the reasons were but there was always something. To be honest, every Thanksgiving since has been the equivalent of cold, unseasoned turkey. When I think back on that time, I do miss the food, but I have grown to appreciate the stories, the sharing, and the togetherness that Thanksgiving facilitates. The stories shared at that table were how I learned about my grandparents, my mother’s childhood, and even my own childhood. I miss it. I miss the togetherness. Life is marked with periods of transition and rarely do we know when it’s coming. I am positive I took advantage of this time when I was younger, but I am grateful for the memories.
There was the year my mother broke her tooth biting into a crab leg, the time my cousin, sister, and I had a dance off in the living room, the year my aunt refused to take a skip card while we were playing Phase 10—she got way to serious—and the whole table died laughing—because it isn’t that serious. I remember when I stopped going to the kids room to play after dinner and started going with the adults to the living room to watch the game, I remember bringing my first guy friend to dinner—he was American—and he loved the carrot juice. I am not talking about regular carrot juice; I am talking about island carrot juice it is a delicious sweet drink. He had almost 6 glasses of it!
The day after Thanksgiving, the turkey is cold but my heart is warm with the memories. There will come a time when memories are all we have. My family never participated in black Friday, so it has never been a part of life. Thanksgiving has always been about food, family, and us being together. Two years ago, I went to back to Miami and spent Thanksgiving with my family like old times; it was wonderful to be there again with everyone, eat the food, hear the stories, and play Phase 10. Over the years, I have tried to play this same card game with other groups of people, but it isn’t the same. Every year of life yields something different. This year I will spend Thanksgiving here in Phoenix. Who knows what will be the case next year. To tell the truth, I have no idea if I will ever have Thanksgiving with that same group of family members like that ever again. Life is constantly changing. Change is the only consistent in our lives. So for those who are near the ones they love and even those they don’t, I say cherish the now. These are the good ole days. Store the treasure of togetherness in your heart. Whatever your tradition is, it’s yours, pass it on to your children in recipe, story, or however you do it just be sure to pass it on.