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LAURA WILLIAMS: Thanksgiving traditions make good memories

FEATURES COLUMN: Thanksgiving traditions make special memories for family.

Laura Williams

Laura Williams

I’m a person who likes tradition.

And what better time to incorporate tradition than during the holidays?

I have to admit, Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and the entire holiday season, but I don’t mind being in different places for Christmas, or doing different things.

But for Thanksgiving, there is only one place in this world that I want to be — my grandmother’s house.

I think that’s how I know it means a lot to me — I start getting excited about it a few weeks ahead of time and count down the days till it comes. I know that, realistically, that tradition will one day have to change, and I’ll be heartbroken when it does. But for now, I plan to enjoy every minute.

We keep things pretty classic in our family. All who are able gather for a big meal at lunchtime; the women chatter in the kitchen while the men watch football.

Turkey is served, but we don’t officially carve it — my mom will take care of that beforehand and have it artfully arranged on a platter for people to grab as we go through the line, buffet style.

My grandmother will make her cheese ball — we would all probably revolt if she didn’t — and she’ll have her special wassail simmering in a crock pot. I’m sure at some point we will all be cautioned to use an oven mitt when opening the crock pot, because “poor little Sara just burned her hand all to pieces one year.” Poor little Sara is grown up and married now, and that incident happened almost 20 years ago, but her wassail hand-burning legacy lives on forever.

I tried to make that same wassail on my own one year. It was OK, but it just wasn’t the same as drinking it on Thanksgiving. I think I ended up throwing it away. There are certain things that are special just because that’s the way it’s always been, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

One more very important tradition I must partake in is Black Friday. Now, I won’t be camping out at a store the Tuesday before in the hopes of saving a few bucks. My cousins and I agree: We just can’t imagine a savings deal that would be worth missing out on all the fun of Thanksgiving Day. And I would like to point out that I have never fought with another shopper, or been dragged into a tug-of-war over hand towels. Like I said before, our family keeps it classy.

Black Friday shopping is one part of Thanksgiving weekend that has evolved over the years. When my cousins and I were children, we tagged along with the adult ladies. Now, we’ve branched out on our own. The others wouldn’t be able to keep up with us. But we’ll meet up with them for lunch, where one final tradition must take place.

Every year, we (well, my mom and grandmother) make turkey and ham sandwiches, pack up the Thanksgiving leftovers in a cooler, and tailgate in a parking lot. Over the years, we’ve hit up parks, car washes and church porticoes, but we’ve finally settled into a permanent location.

But, back to the shopping. These past two years, my cousins and I have taken our shopping skills up a notch. We start at Walmart Thanksgiving night, depending on when the sales start and when we can get there, and then shop all night long and the following day, covering two different cities and a variety of stores. It’s actually a lot of fun, but a newcomer who tagged along with us last year said we were “intense.”

That might be true, but at the end of the day, we have a trunk full of Christmas presents for a good price — and great memories to go with them.

For instance, there’s the year that one cousin accidentally opened up the car’s broken sunroof, and we had to drive back home in the freezing cold to trade cars. Those two sisters were silently stewing in the front seat, while I was trying very hard to contain my laughter in the back — I didn’t want to seem insensitive.

There’s also the time another cousin set off the car alarm and couldn’t get it to go off. As it blared in the mall parking lot at 3 a.m., she ducked down in the front seat while the mall’s security vehicle circled the car.

I also learned last year that it is possible to carry a griddle, a crock pot, and a vacuum cleaner at the same time without a shopping cart. A tricky challenge? Yes, but I’m a better person for it — and I’ve gotten good use out of that crock pot and vacuum cleaner. The griddle is still in the box it came in, but I’m sure I’ll use it some day.

The rest of our Thanksgiving weekend is spent catching up on sleep and just having fun before we have to all go our separate ways again. It’s a simple time, but it’s wonderful because we all enjoy being together.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.