Monday, November 30, 2009


I am 31 years old. And for the past 31 years, the Connell family has always done everything the same way. For every holiday, we shared the same meal and always gathered at Grandmother and Pa's. At Easter it was ham and fried chicken. We'd eat outside under the big covered patio. For the 4th of July, Pa always made home-made ice cream. We'd go swimming up until it was dark enough to shoot fireworks. For Thanksgiving, nothing but turkey and dressing would do. And at Christmas, we'd pig out on BBQ. Tradition.

They were all my favorites, but I always loved Thanksgiving. It wasn't really the turkey so much but the dressing and the sides! Yummy! Corn (picked straight from the garden, cut off the cob and stored in the freezer til November), broccoli and rice casserole, green beans, butter peas, sweet potato casserole, squash casserole, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, strawberry pretzel salad, pear salad, fruit cake, Grandmother's ambrosia . . . I could count on it, year after year after year . . . even after all these years. And not only that, but everyone made the same thing year after year after year. There was never a question about who would bring what. So you're already thinking we're weird. Well, we just get weirder. We always sit in the same place year after year after year! Well, when the eight of us grandkids grew up and started getting married, we were displaced from the kitchen table that sat only eight to tables in the foyer and formal living room that would accommodate all of us. But we always knew exactly who was sitting exactly where around that big table in the formal dining room. I just love that table! It's very long . . . fills up the whole room . . . and seats 10. Now, just in case anyone forgot, we'd have place cards at each seat with our names on them. Yes, place cards. Year after year after year. I really thought all families used place cards. Imagine my utter shock and dismay when I was in 1st grade and found out that my friends' families didn't use place cards! I mean, really, that was a BIG deal. I even saved the place card with Mason's name on it from his first Thanksgiving for his scrapbook! Tradition.

And so it went year after year after year. Well, things changed a bit in 1998. Pa went to heaven that year so those seats around the big table shifted a big. Pa always sat at the head of the table by the window. Uncle Donnie was moved into that seat. But that's really the only thing that changed in those 31 years (okay, besides the fact that our family grew from 18 to now almost 40). Tradition.

After I got married and moved away, the only fair thing for us to do was rotate holidays between our LA family and GA family. So this year it was time for Thanksgiving in GA and Christmas in LA. But this year was going to be different. At first, I wasn't sure there would be the big Connell family gathering. And if there was, it definitely was not going to be at Grandmother's big, rambling farm house like it'd been for over 30 years prior. It seemed like tradition was coming to an end.

But Uncle Donnie and Aunt Harriette opened their home up to all of us. Granted, it wasn't in that big, rambling farm house . . . that long dining room table . . . but we had Thanksgiving for sure. As the evening began, I forgot that we weren't where we were "supposed" to be. It didn't matter because that's not what Thanksgiving was about. It was about us . . . our families . . . celebrating together and thanking the Lord for His bountiful blessings during yet another year. Sure, it was different. But . . . do you know what I really missed most of all? PLACE CARDS.

Although this picture is quite fuzzy, it's my favorite one of the night. I love my Grandmother, and I'm so glad she was with us!
Uncle Donnie carved the bird. Aunt Lynne got a 26-pounder for us this year.One of my favorite moments from the evening was finally meeting my newest cousin, Ashley's baby Rylynne. She is eight months old now. I'd only seen her in pictures, and I just couldn't wait to get my hands on that chubby baby. She's nothing but a hunk of good ole lovin, just like I thought she'd be. Of course all the girls - Maggie Grace, Jada and Hannah Kate - were drawn to her, too.Hannah Kate L O V E S babies! She's constantly caring for her baby dolls . . . feeding them, swaddling them in their blanket, changing their diaper . . . and she's just beside herself when she has the opportunity to be near a real baby. If we hear a baby crying in the store, she gets very upset and wants me to go find the baby and tell the baby's mommy to help the baby. So when she saw Rylynne, she was in love. She kept touching her face and her hair. So sweet!Rob and GrandmotherDaddy, Uncle Bob, Brian, Kristi and Jones (in Kristi's tummy!)Hannah Kate is showing off her turkey dress that Cindy sewed for her. Thank you, Cindy! I'm sorry we didn't get to see you during this trip!
Aunt Gail (Mama's sister) and Mrs. Waites (Aunt Harriette's mama). I'm so glad Aunt Gail joined us this year . . . but it was more bittersweet because this was our first Thanksgiving without Uncle Charles.Aunt Lynne and GrandmotherAunt Harriette and Mama are checking out the spread . . . making sure we have enough spoons in everything.Uncle Harry and Grandmother. I sat beside Uncle Harry while we were eating. As we were talking, I realized just how much I think he resembles Pa. Again, bittersweet.Here are some of the great-grands . . . Jada, TJ, Manny, JJ, Maggie Grace and Mason.This picture really doesn't do it justice . . . maybe you can see Rob behind the mound of mac 'n' cheese on his plate . . . or maybe not!Kristi, Rob and DaddyJennifer, Kevin and Seth
Denise, Aaron, Carter and LamarHannah Kate's favorite was broccoli and cheese casserole. Can't say I blame her!Rylynne and GrandmotherMaggie Grace, Kevin and Mason roasting marshmellows at the fire pit . . . this is a new tradition.Mason and his marshmellowThe girl cousins - Jennifer, me, Denise and AshleyTJ and Mason are always big buddies.
I wasn't able to capture everyone. I realized later that I didn't get any pictures of Adam or MeMama. And Scott and his family were not there. Perhaps next time we'll all be there. After all, there WILL be a next time. It's TRADITION.

1 comment:

Raimie said...

Tradition. I agree with you, holidays are about family and being with the ones you love. I'm thrilled that your trip went well and that you guys are home safely. I am thankful for you, my friend.