Traditions are like the people who try to keep them: Sooner or later, like it or not, they change.
Growing up, I spent most Thankgivings at the home of my grandparents eating ham (not turkey), green beans (not broccoli), candied yams (not mashed potatoes), pecan pie (not pumpkin, and never apple) and chasing my squirrelly cousins around the house.
Once a week or so, my mother and her mother would have a big falling out and stop speaking to each other, a sticky situation that my granddad described as the social equivalent of a fistfight in an outhouse.
If the falling out fell near a holiday, my mother would refuse to show up for the family gathering. We’d either stay home or, worse, go have dinner with my stepfather’s mother (who looked just like my stepfather in a flowered dress) and his kin, who were decent enough people, but different.
I didn’t want different. On holidays, I wanted everything and everybody to stay the same. But I couldn’t wait to change all the other days of the year.
Growing up is a tug-of-war between the old and the new, the familiar and the strange, the safety of home and the lure of what lies beyond the horizon.
At 19, when I left my family in the South to spend all my days in California, I didn’t realize that would also mean holidays.
Every Thanksgiving I’d call my mother long distance and get an earful of what I had missed. By then, my grandmother had gone to her “Reward.” They weren’t fighting any more, but they still weren’t speaking much either.
“If I could have her back for just one day,” my mother said, “things would be different.”
Different? Really? What do you think? Given a second chance, would things have been better between them? Would they have chosen their battles more carefully? Laughed harder and argued less? If they had realized their days together were numbered, would they have been slower to take offense and quicker to offer grace?
Sometimes we treat people we love like the Jello salad at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s easy to take them for granted. We don’t miss them until they’re gone.
My traditions, like my life, have changed over the years. I suspect yours might have, too.
When my children were growing up, we celebrated the holidays with their dad’s family. After he died, we began staying home, or rather, I stayed and the kids came to me. We invited friends to join us and pretty soon Thanksgiving turned into a great big, two-turkey wing-ding.
Years later, when I remarried, my new husband pitched in with cooking and carving and clean-up. His two boys joined us, and the celebration kept growing.
Then a job change moved us to another state, and once again, our traditions changed.
This year we’ll gather at the home of my youngest and his wife and their 15-month-old, who’s about the size of one of the turkeys I’ll stuff. Joining us will be the newest addition to the family: My 2-month-old grandson, who’s about the size of the Jello salad his mother insists I have to make.
It will be different in some ways from every Thanksgiving I have known, but this much, at least, will remain the same.
I will set two tables for all the people I hold dear: One in the dining room for those who’ll be with me; and one in my heart for those who will not.
I’l eat too much, laugh too loud and count my blessings, giving thanks for the gift of family and friends and the awareness of numbered days.
To you and yours from me and mine, happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Great Thanksgiving column. I enjoyed it immensely. I hope you and your family enjoy both “tables” this Thursday.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving sweet friend. I didn’t know you caught up with me in the number of grandchildren. Congratulations. You must send pictures!
    Love you!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too, Sharon. All the best.


    (P.S. I love the L’Amour quote.)

    • Sharon Randall says

      Thanks, Bruce. I know this will be a particularly thankful Thanksgiving for you! God’s best to you and your family!

  4. Linda Kantowski says

    Hi Sharon, as always I loved your column. A few years ago when my kids were still at home they knew their friends always had a standing invitation for the holidays. Many were what my mom would call “strays” and we always took in the strays, whether it be kids or animals. Having invited the usual family guests, the final count came to 35. How am I going to seat 35? So having been blessed with the MacGyver Syndrome I came up with the perfect solution. I stitches 3 tablecloths together, fashioned a holiday centerpiece, and we all gathered together, saying Grace around a lovely decorated ping pong table (net down of course).

  5. Sandi Ellis says

    OOPS..It looks like you now another message from me as I didn’t know the other one went through so I wrote another one. Take care Sharon.

  6. Sandi Ellis says

    Hi Sharon,

    It’s so nice to be able to read your column again. You are so missed here on the peninsula. Loved this article. Oh the wonderful memories we share of the family gatherings. Good or bad, they are our memories that we will hold deep in our hearts forever. It’s a great reminder of how quickly times change and time goes by. It was just yesterday that our childern were little and now they are all grown up and we are the Grandparents. It’s so hard to believe. We are all blessed to have the wonderful families we have, a legacy of those whom have gone before us. Thanks Sharon and blessings to all of you for the holiday season. Your grandson Henry is a doll. I see all the pictures on FB.

  7. Sandi Ellis says

    Hi Sharon,

    It was wonderful to read this article. What wonderful memories we all have of our families. Good or bad, there are memories….It’s nice to be in touch with Joanna on FB. Her little baby and your sweet grandson is adorable.. Wishing you well for the holiday season. You are deeply missed by many here in the area…Stay well and God Bless.


    • Sharon Randall says

      Sandi, great to hear from you! Would love a chance to catch up. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  8. mike & sandi says

    you are the coolest, Many great Thanksgivings to you

  9. Vicki in Monterey says

    Hi darlin’girl – this holiday season for you, with new grandbabies, will be awesome, I’m sure!

    love you…Vicki

  10. Happy Thanksgiving Sharon and Mark and your whole Clan! I remember the huge table filled with all the delicious foods, filling our tummies, and hearts to over flowing. It was a very special time with you and your wonderful family. Enjoy this year with your beautiful Grand Babies. We’ll be thinking of you. Love, Davey

Speak Your Mind