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My mother’s Thanksgivings

My mother did our Thanksgivings, all my growing up years — with the six kids and later, their spouses and their children. It's my favorite holiday.

Our family felt big back then, but now it has grown even bigger. Mom has 15 grandchildren and more than 30 great-granchildren. Five of her six kids live in the Inland Northwest, and my sister Lucia is moving back in January, after 40 years living in the East.

Nearly half my grown nieces and nephews, and their children, also live here.

We would have to rent out a hall to fit us all and none of us grown daughters, or our sisters-in-law, inherited the cultural and familial imperative that the matriarch must do the holidays, without much help and without complaint.

So tomorrow, little family groups, tiny moons circling a giant Earth of a family, will gather in twos, threes, fours, fives all over the town, all over the land. My 91-year-old mother will go out to dinner with my brother Rob and his wife, Mariko.

And though we have all sorts of good excuses why none of us can, or should, do a family Thanksgiving for 50 people, it still evokes grief in me, the loss of something I took for granted all my growing up years.

So when I see this photo, taken on Thanksgiving Day, 1970, in my childhood living room, I feel gratitude for my mother (in the red shirt, giving the peace sign) for all the years she did it, without complaint, without much help. We couldn't follow your footsteps, we modern daughters. But thanks, Mom, for walking the Thanksgiving trail anyway.

( Nappi family photo, Thanksgiving 1970)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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