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Jessie Veeder, Published November 24 2012

Veeder: Tradition (and turkey) best part of holidays

I hope the holiday was good to everyone. I hope the sun rose bright and warm and flooded your kitchen with streams of light while you or someone you love basted the turkey and rolled up your sleeves, saying something like “Whew, it’s warm in here isn’t it?”

I hope you cracked the window open to let the crisp air billow in from outside.

I hope you helped make something wonderful to eat, like cheesecake or pie or cookie salad. I hope you played games, took a walk, laughed really hard and maybe even danced a little before dessert.

I hope there was ping pong or a game of spoons or maybe even a friendly round of poker on your list of things to do.

And I hope there was a cheeseball.

Traditions. They’re the things that remain constant in an ever-changing and unpredictable life, and I hope you stuck to yours. It’s my favorite thing about the holidays, to know that I will be in a kitchen somewhere with my mother. There will always be turkey, and I know I won’t be judged on this day for unbuttoning the top button of my pants.

Yes, some things remain constant, but some things sneak up on us. While we’re busy with that second helping of stuffing, little by little things are tweaking, evolving and changing the world we know until suddenly you find gray hair mixed in with the black, and you look around to find that those who used to sit with you at the kids’ table now have kids of their own.

How did that happen?

And as the family tree branches out, so do the holidays, turning aunts into grandmas, grandmas into great ones, best friends into uncles and cousins into mommas who now wear aprons and host their own Thanksgiving meals hundreds of miles away.

When I was growing up Thanksgiving was always held at my aunt and uncle’s farm in South Dakota. It was one of my favorite holidays because it meant that we got to run with our cousins in the hay bales, stuff our olives with mashed potatoes and put on ridiculously elaborate living room plays about pilgrims. One year we put my little sister and cousin in ridiculous hats, built them a homemade ship out of a cardboard box and sent them sailing over the living room as we subjected the rest of the family to our version of how our great land was settled.

That was one activity that thankfully never made it to “tradition” status.

I miss those days and my ugly sweaters. I miss my aunt’s cheesy potatoes and how watching her work in the kitchen made me feel like my grandmother was in the room. I miss listening to my brilliant cousins whine and moan while their dad requested one more song on the piano.

I miss that music.

But now the turkey is in my cousin’s oven, and she is the momma proudly requesting a performance from her children, and I am miles away with my nieces and nephews opening the window for my mother-in-law before scooping her gravy onto the hot turkey she’d been cooking since the early morning.

And I smile to myself because the way my mother-by-marriage effortlessly pulls it all together reminds me a little of my aunt who never loses her sweet nature even when it’s 87 degrees in the kitchen and there are 13 kids scrambling at her feet, the way her cheeks flush after her first glass of wine and how she forgets the sweet potatoes in the microwave until 10 p.m.

Because even as time changes our circumstances, taking people we love from us, bringing new ones into the world to adore, making us brave enough to host our own Thanksgivings, I love knowing there are a few things we can count on during this holiday

One of them is turkey and the other is memories.

I hope you made some good ones this holiday.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.