Her passing was expected, but not expected that soon. After all, she had battled cancer for quite some time and she was in her seventies. Grief, like lead and acid, found its way into depths of my soul that I had no idea existed. I had never learned to love someone who was no longer here, and it was a torturous lesson. The summer weeks that followed were a blur, with everyday life completely eclipsed by the realization that my beloved grandmother was no longer here. As my familiar hometown trees began to turn beautiful shades of New England umber and gold, facing the first holiday season without her was nothing short of devastating. She would throw her arms wide to holiday spirit and my childhood home was a cradle of incredible memories; family around the roaring fireplace, popcorn balls, and the simplest, most decadent meals.
After she passed away, my grandfather asked me to come over one autumn afternoon. We went out and had Boston Chicken, which he loved, and then he said he had something to give me. When we walked back into the house, he went to the dining room buffet. I watched as he slowly, but confidently took out four extremely familiar green rolled up pieces of fabric. He turned to me, holding them in his hand, and looking at me with loving intent. “She wanted you to have it,” he said. My hands trembled as he handed them to me. I wanted so much for them to stay in her buffet because taking them was just another painful reminder that she was truly gone. But yet, I knew exactly what it was and the pure honor that I was receiving was one of the greatest acts of trust and love. It was her beloved silver.
My grandparents lived wonderfully well, though they were exceptionally frugal. We did not have the finest of things growing up, but we were taught every lesson of gratitude. Everything that she kept in her buffet was for only the finest of occasions, which meant family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. This silver is not at all expensive and its age shows, but it was her silver and the sentimental value of this treasure means far more to me than its little monetary value. Receiving her silver meant that she trusted me to preserve and maintain family traditions, just as she had. And ever since my grandfather put that cherished gift in my hand, Thanksgiving has now been my heart’s favorite holiday.
I remember the first time I used her silver. I was so careful with the cross-stitched handmade fabric holder that lovingly protected her treasure. I unrolled the first roll marked “FORKS” and saw the tines peeking out of their perfectly sewn little cubbies. I took out the first fork and I set it at the head of the table. A rush of memories came back, of watching my proud grandfather at the head of the table with the platter of turkey that he carved so delicately thin. Last Thanksgiving she was here and it was her table. Now, like a torch being passed, I held this first fork in my hand to set at the head place setting knowing that the last person who touched it was now my newest guardian angel.
This Thanksgiving will mark twenty years since the first Thanksgiving without her. And I will joyfully and lovingly continue my family tradition of turkey, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a crystal dish of black olives set on the table… just because that’s what she always did. And unlike years of the same beautiful family around her perfectly pressed linens, my table is open as it always has been since moving to Georgia. When I moved here, I had very little family close by, and there were so many new people that had moved to this area who couldn’t or didn’t go home. Over the years my table, adorned with her silver, has welcomed people from fourteen states, Ecuador, China, The Phillipines, and even Belgium. The Belgian guests are some of my favorite memories. The Belgian grandparents didn’t speak any English, and between my dear friend (their daughter) who is ridiculously fluent in an abundance of languages, and my rusty high school French, we celebrated “La Grande Fete De La Dindin” (the great festival of the turkey) since there is no word in French for Thanksgiving. Truly, my grandmother would have loved these experiences. The silver has been there through it all.
The leaves are turning, pumpkins are everywhere, and the occasional smell of burning wood wafts through the crisp autumn air. As we get ready to welcome another holiday season of overscheduling, overspending, and overdoing, remember to honor the simpler things because they have this timeless evergreen quality to them. Perhaps you also have treasured family heirlooms that are beautiful reminders of your history and those who have loved you. Be sure to share those stories with those who will listen, for they are some of the most sacred stories ever told. Take a few moments to appreciate those irreplaceable memories and the tangible things in your home that are symbolically interconnected. Let your heart be open to all abundance, and open wide your circle of celebration and embrace any and all reasons to be grateful, for it is love and all of its ornaments that are more precious than gold.
Take a few moments to appreciate those irreplaceable memories and the tangible things in your home that are symbolically interconnected.