Skipping Holiday Traditions This Year Is Something We Can Be Thankful About

Commentary By: Dean P. Johnson, Follow South Jersey Editor

If Murphy’s Law holds any gravy, we shouldn’t be too surprised when things do not go exactly the way we had hoped or planned or are used to, especially during this holiday season.

Here in New Jersey, Murphy’s Law has taken on a whole new meaning.  With people encouraged not to travel and families being told to not gather outside those who live in the household, it is difficult for some to see anything to be thankful for or joyous about.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was a large family event. My mom and dad would pack my two brothers and me into our green Ford LTD, and head out over the highway and through the roads to Grandmother’s house we’d go. It was quite a crowd: my mother and father, his brother and three sisters, their spouses, their children, Grandmom and Grandpop all together to share each other’s company, each other’s lives, around a long table overflowing with good grub with sides of sweet giggles and just a hint of savory goading.

While my mom, grandmom, and aunts baked and basted in the kitchen, and my father, grandfather, and uncles sat and squabbled about football, we kids loudly milled about getting in everyone’s way.  More often than not, we were instructed to go outside to play. I have wonderful memories of meeting neighborhood kids who we’d play with until near dinner time. Once back inside, as the finishing touches were added to the table, my one aunt had us kids play the quiet game. The cousin who could keep their mouth closed the longest would win a dollar.

During dinner, the kids table was the place to be. I always believed that my older cousins who had been promoted to the adult table longed to join in the raucousness of the kids’ table. That’s where the real fun was.

After long good-byes, we’d drive to my mother’s side of the family for dessert with more playful laughter, good-natured gibbing, and more pumpkin pie.

I cherish those memories.

There was another Thanksgiving, though, that was different.

One particular year, the flu had invaded our house a week or so before Thanksgiving. Much to my and my brothers’ chagrin, my dad made the decision to stay home that year. Even though we were all feeling better, my dad thought it best to not risk my grandparents, and others, catching anything.

That Thanksgiving, I watched my mother and father prepare the meal together. We kids helped, too. I was given the task of cubing stale bread that would turn into homemade stuffing. It was a total family effort. Everything was different, even meal time. My dad said he wanted to eat early, about one in the afternoon, just so he could enjoy an after-Thanksgiving sandwich later that evening.

Though I was disappointed we couldn’t go to my grandparents that year, we ended up having a wonderful time.

I cherish that memory, too.

This year the holidays will be different. Many of us will feel disappointment, some maybe even anger, from having to skip a tradition or two, but it really is for the best.

Giving, in its adjective form, describes one who provides love or other emotional support. By following guidelines on social gatherings this holiday season, we are giving of ourselves through a short-term denial of our wants for the safety and, in the long term, hopes of others. 

And if we are on the fence — to go or not to go, to gather or not to gather — why not err on the side of hope and love  and support so that next year, we can all be thankful for our giving this year.

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