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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Harvest Home
By Margaret S. Hamilton

The words and tune of the Victorian hymn “Come ye thankful people come” are with me during the month of November, though instead of harvesting corn, green tomatoes, and pumpkins, I’m raking leaves and disinfecting flower pots.

We’ve lived all over the country, and for many years, celebrated Thanksgiving with only our children and sometimes, friends. Thanksgiving became a movable feast in 2006, when our oldest, a recent college graduate, co-hosted a magnificent holiday dinner with her roommates and their parents in their shared townhouse in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Washington, DC.

Since then, we’ve celebrated many Thanksgivings in Washington, D.C. We have our routine: after running a local turkey trot, we visit to the U.S. Botanical Garden and Conservatory on Capitol Hill, with its fabulous model train exhibit in a terrain constructed entirely of plant material. We pose for our annual family photo in front of the Christmas tree, the transformation from road race to photo-ready always a challenge.

We round off the weekend with trips to the National Gallery and other Smithsonian venues, Eastern Market, and the movies. Two years ago, we attended a showing of “Home Alone” with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. In past years, we’ve braved the Black Friday crowds at the Baltimore Aquarium, Mt. Vernon, the National Arboretum, and Great Falls Park.

Last year, we assembled most of the family in New Orleans for Thanksgiving. Wearing shorts and tee shirts, we cooked a traditional feast of turkey, bread and sausage stuffing, and Louisiana sweet potato casserole. Over the weekend we admired the Christmas decorations in the French Quarter, and visited “Celebration in the Oaks,” a sound and light exhibit in the Botanical Gardens and Storyland in City Park. A narrated Cajun “Night before Christmas” with Pere Noel and his flying alligators was the family favorite. We had brunch at Elizabeth’s in Bywater, explored the nearby waterfront park, and spent the afternoon in Bacchanal courtyard listening to a jazz violin and acoustic guitar concert. Another evening, we enjoyed Parkway Bakery turkey and stuffing po’boys, joining other multi-generational family groups at long picnic tables under a tent.

Every family has different Thanksgiving traditions. What are yours?
Washington D.C. photos with daughters Elizabeth and Julia
New Orleans photos with son Paul, wife Megan, and daughter Julia


Kait said...

Lovely, Margaret! Like yours, our traditions have varied through the years. In my young adult years, holidays were always at my parents' house.

When my mother passed, my Dad lived close and the holidays were my job. Since holiday cooking means too much food, and, I was involved with law enforcement agencies through my job and, we set the table for 20, cooked for 40 and let it be known that holiday dinners were served whenever anyone had a break. The house was always full of friends, neighbors, men and women in and out of uniform, sometimes their families--especially at Christmas--it was a blast.

When we moved to Maine, it was just my husband and me again as families there are large and close so celebrations became smaller and have remained that way since, even now that we are in back in Florida for a while.

Your photos are fabulous! Pere Noel and his gators is fantastic. And how did you get what looks like a private photo at the White House Christmas Tree? Wow. What a lovely family. What are your plans for this year?

Jim Jackson said...

We now spend Thanksgiving at our southern home where no family is nearby. In recent years, we've shared Thanksgiving dinner with friends. I DO NOT do Black Friday in stores, in fact I find ways to stay off the roads that day. Does that surprise anyone?

~ Jim

KM Rockwood said...

You just go to prove that the holiday isn't a location or distinct set of traditions--it's all in the spirit! And to think that it took the Grinch all that time and work to figure it out!

Your pictures are wonderful.

Grace Topping said...

Once we had children, my husband wanted to stay home for Christmas, so no more trips to Pennsylvania for the holidays. But we have remained faithful to gathering with the family there for Thanksgiving. My uncle, who was retired from the Air Force and traveled the world on space available, always seemed to make it for Thanksgiving. So it has always been special. I wish, however, that we could do like the Canadians and celebrate Thanksgiving earlier in the fall, and on a Sunday. It would make life and the celebrations easier.

Warren Bull said...

We are developing traditions since we moved to Portland. Probably to be with my sister and my mother.

E. B. Davis said...

We've done different things different years. When the kids were young, we often stayed home or went across the street to have dinner with friends. As they got older, we went to PA to visit with family. Now that everyone is spread out, we're going to meet our daughter at our son's new place in western VA since they don't have as much time off. We try to get together with family or friends. When my son was in school, there wasn't time to get together. We waited until Christmas to see them when they had more time off.

Gloria Alden said...

Margaret, what fantastic Thanksgivings you and your family have had. Mine used to be at my parents home until my father ended up in a nursing home after a major stroke. Then I had them at my house for awhile, and then the sister closest in age to me took over. My son and then daughter-in-law usually had her family over to their house and my daughter who lives closest to me went to one of her sisters-I-law's houses to have it with her mother-in-law. Usually, my youngest daughter in California doesn't come home until Christmas when I have every Christmas dinner at my house with my grown kids, some grandchildren that aren't grown up and all my siblings, except my Washington State sister, and a few nieces and nephews.

Beautiful pictures, Margaret, but they don't surprise me after all the beautiful cards you've sent me.

Like Jim. I do not shop on Black Friday, either. I get upset that so many stores are making
it earlier on Thanksgiving Day now, too.

Shari Randall said...

Margaret, I got a kick out of seeing your family at some of my favorite DC places. We lived in Northern VA and also loved the special holiday fun in our nation's capital. For years when the kids were young, we'd go to grandma's house. Now that we've moved north and my kids are spread out, we're gathering at my older daughter and her husband's house in NC. He does a great job with the turkey! Looking into the future, I think our Thanksgiving will be like yours - a moveable feast.