For as long as I can remember, the holidays have always been a fun-filled time for me. I’m glad during these septuagenarian years that I haven’t changed in that regard. Beginning with Halloween, the celebration is on. Of course, being a Christian, Thanksgiving and Christmas carry more import for me. No doubt my growing up in the family that surrounded me imbued the holidays with special meaning. Solid foundations that a loving and nurturing family can lay form springboard for moving on into life.
Home at Thanksgiving
Last year at this time, I penned a blog regarding my mom and her journey into becoming a professional nurse. I tend to become reflective about family at the beginning of every holiday season. Unfortunately, I believe Thanksgiving gets the short end of the stick when it comes to festivities. Everyone is wild about Halloween, and then the Christmas decorations start emerging in all the retail centers. One hears questions from various people like, what happened to Thanksgiving. Christmas decorations coming out in late October and early November appear to jump over Thanksgiving like a game of checkers. As for Thanksgiving, people can become more excited about Black Friday sales than the holiday with family interactions.
My family always celebrated Thanksgiving with the traditional dinner, joined by relatives and friends. Although there was plenty of turkey over the years, my mom enjoyed baked chicken due to its succulent and moist taste. She learned from my grandmother on my dad’s side how to cook, and she never disappointed. The aromas of food ready for preparation created a mien throughout the house beginning a couple of days before the big Thanksgiving feast. Over the years mom became more and more adamant about preparing holidays meals herself rather than letting other family members take on the task. She loved the big spread that covered a large dining table, and before she would let anyone take a bite, plenty of photographs had to take in the scene to commemorate each year’s feast.
I remember those times being about family, fun, and of course, food. Seeing relatives that otherwise lived miles away made the few days of Thanksgiving special. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents filled the times with memories. The Thanksgiving meals remained a Jones tradition for decades. During the time I was in school, Thanksgiving Day always fell on the last Thursday of November rather than the third Thursday as it does now. That meant that my birthday also fell on the Thanksgiving holidays. Ever so often, it would fall on Thanksgiving Day itself. So for me, that made Thanksgiving even more fun.
What made Thanksgiving, as well as the other holidays, truly special was the energy into which mom poured her self into preparing all the food, calling and inviting the relatives, and decorating the house. She truly loved those times and never saw them as something she felt coerced to engage. Was she exhausted when they were over? Absolutely. But she wouldn’t have changed a thing. I will always remember our home as festive during the holidays.
Time Moves On
When I was young, I had a faint sense that the future would entail the passing on of my parents. As I grew older, that sense strengthened into a full-fledged awareness, and eventually became a known reality. As a professional in the work-a-day world of counseling, I know the importance of family. My experience of my family, however, imbues that importance with a reality that counseling theories can never touch.
You see, I’m one of those corny guys who does not hold grudges against either my mom or dad. I didn’t grow up in a home where I regret anything regarding family. Any regrets I have are due to my own actions. I don’t have any repressed hostilities against family authority or something called patriarchy. Did my parents and I have disagreements? You bet we did. We had our disagreements and arguments like any family. The key thing for me, however, even in the midst of times where we vehemently disagreed on things, there was never a question regarding support and love.
As a professional counselor, over the years I’ve worked with people who didn’t grow up in the kind of family I was blessed enough to be a part of. So yes, I know the importance of family first hand. I know the importance of how core beliefs, values, and ways of taking on life emerge from family. I know, as well, that it’s hard to learn those lessons when a nurturing, supportive, and loving family is absent from one’s life. Learning about life is something that cannot be made up in a short time. Even with the supportive family I had, I’ve had to learn about time and heeding lessons. The foundations laid in family experiences will last a lifetime. That’s why those times are immensely important. They shape the way we view, engage and experience the most important relationships we have moving forward.
Time moves on whether we want it to or not. In many ways we become aware of its inexorable press forward when we would like to slow it down, hold it back, or shut it down for at least a little while. But we do not as finite creatures possess the power to stop or alter time. The one thing I would advise people to do, if I can take the position of a septuagenarian here who at least has some worthwhile advice to give, is to grab hold of your family experiences with all you have in you, and learn from them all that you can glean. Make memories. And then make some more. Family can be a foundation on which you can stand for all your life.
Time moves on. My dad died in 1999 of coronary heart disease. He would have been seventy-five years old that September. I watched esophageal cancer take mom when she was seventy-seven in 2007. I miss those days with them everyday that I move on with time. The lessons learned and forgotten are worthy, but the memories of love are forever and never relinquish in strength. Like so many, I was a rebellious teenager, a young adult who grew up in the 1960’s, and a person who changed with adulthood like anyone else who navigates life. Even during those changes, there was a foundation that never wavered. John Bowlby calls it secure base. I called it a home.
As I look back on those times now, I realize something very important. The energy and gusto that mom poured into Thanksgiving meals were not just about the holidays. Those happy times emerged from a solid and loving family that generated the festive times during the holidays, and not the other way around. My family was not what it was because of the holidays. The holidays were what they were because of my family.
I’ll never let go of all that those times meant for me. I’ll never let go of continuously learning what those times mean for my life now as a septuagenarian, who is still moving on in time.
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/November 14, 2018