Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Traditions

November 23, 2007

Most years my third brother and his wife host our family Thanksgiving. My brother is on the faculty at Johnson Bible College, which is about 20 minutes away from us, and as faculty they are requested to live on campus. I think it would be a fabulous place to live. For their kids (the ones left at home are now 11 and 15), the campus is their gigantic backyard. They are free to roam about in a wonderfully safe and nurturing environment. Anyway, that has nothing to do with our Thanksgiving except that I always enjoy going there and imagining what life would be like there. I pretty much do that wherever we go. It has nothing to do with being discontent; I absolutely love where we live. There's just this part of me that always wonders what life might be like somewhere else--in New York City, on a midwestern farm, or just 20 minutes down the road.

But back to Thanksgiving. Our family has certain traditions that are of utmost importance. First, there is food.

Before we went to my brother's, we made 3 pies and 10 lbs. of mashed potatoes. This year we got wild and tried The Pioneer Woman's Delicious, Creamy Mashed Potatoes. They are truly amazing. I would have been perfectly happy just eating an entire plate of these potatoes for dinner. Everyone else brings all sorts of other traditional Thanksgiving foods, and we eat.

After eating comes football watching while digesting and then a rousing hour of basketball. During all of those sports-related activities, I generally pick the people who look least likely to want to be energetic and hang out with them. On comfortable chairs with a pot of coffee nearby.

And the rest of the day consists of these important traditions:

Ping Pong. It's something we're taught to play from babyhood. As you can see, my brother takes this very seriously. He recently refurbished his table with the above inscription painted on both ends.

My mother may be 80 years old, but she's still the reigning ping pong champion. I often slip quietly away after my first game of ping pong to find those ready for another important tradition...

Playing cards. And not just any card game, either. We exclusively play a relatively obscure game called 500. It's somewhat like bid euchre, but not. Again, we are taught to play 500 from early childhood. In fact, most of my earliest memories involve my sitting at the corner of a card table, listening to the sounds of bids and the shuffling of cards.

And while all this ping-ponging and card-playing is going on, there is constant background music.

My brother John is always brings his guitar, and there are always a couple more around in our various homes. Jesse and John played most of the afternoon, with Justus and Owen sitting in now and then. I can't remember a family event that didn't include John playing the guitar.

And that brings me to the final essential: family. I have a great family. They make me laugh a lot. My three nieces and my oldest nephew have always felt more like siblings to me, and it is so fun to watch them be grown-ups. Or at least sort of grown-ups.

Here's Owen and his girlfriend Mandy. He was such a rotten little boy. He would never go to sleep when I used to babysit him. But he turned out to be way cool.

That's my sister-in-law Nancy in the middle with Isaac and Ellen. Owen also belongs to her and Peter, and Seth was outside playing somewhere the whole day.

That's my brother Peter. My mother thinks he is perfect, so the rest of us stick our tongues out at him behind his back.

These are my two gorgeous pregnant nieces, Esther and Ellen. Esther's dad is my brother John, and her mom is Sharon (who somehow didn't make it into any of the pictures but I love her anyway!). Esther and her husband Jim are expecting a little girl in March. We are trying hard to convince her not to name the baby Feather or Rainbow. Ellen, as you might imagine, is the polar opposite of her cousin Esther. She and her husband Justus are sticking with the traditional and naming their son (also due in March) Justus Hamilton Hunter Jr. II. I love them both (Feather and Junior) already, as I have loved their mothers from the moment they were born.

Esther Grace is the oldest of the grandchildren. I was 14 when she was born. And Duncan James is (so far) the last of the grandchildren. My brother Stephen is full of surprises, so I won't be quite so bold as to say that Duncan is the very last. You just never know.

It was a good day. It is good to be surrounded by family, and I am so inexpressibly thankful that my children are growing up well loved by many.

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