Thanksgiving in the ourdoors.

Teasing, Basketball And Candied Yams

There will be a few new faces around the dinner table this Thanksgiving

Two of them will belong to new great-nephews who were born this year: Roman and Miles.

Of course, neither of these sweet little boys will actually be sitting with us at the table. They'll mostly be napping while being passed from mommy to aunt to Grandpa Padilla (who never met a baby he couldn't rock to sleep.) But they'll be there when we gather, and occasionally their cute little cries will remind us how thankful we are for their safe arrival in a world that has seen far too much un-safety lately.

The other new face will belong to Brian, our new son-in-law. We're still in the figuring-each-other-out phase of our relationship with Beth's new husband, and so far, we are all getting along famously. But he hasn't yet experienced a full-fledged Padilla family gathering, where the humor is raucous and the teasing is profound. I'm sure Brian's height will come up (he'll be the only male there under 6 feet tall - not counting grandpa, Roman and Miles) and the fact that he is from... you know... Texas. We'll see how Brian handles being the new kid on the family chopping block -- and we'll be thankful if he decides to stay married to Beth anyway.

There will also be a few familiar faces that won't be seen around the table this year. Joe Jr. and Andrea and their families live too far away to make the trip home for Thanksgiving. Aunt Neala and Uncle Lou are in Europe somewhere, visiting their daughter who is stationed there with her Army officer husband. And then there are those -- I won't name names, but you know who you are, AmyJo -- who actually think it is important to occasionally spend Thanksgiving with outlaw... er... in-law families.

Can you imagine such a thing? Neither can I -- at least, not until next Thanksgiving, when we will be feasting with the Walker clan (at which time we will introduce Brian to the traditional Walker pre-Thanksgiving basketball game, where the phrase "no compound fracture, no foul" was born.)

And then there are those influences that will be there even though we won't be able to see their faces. For me, my mother is there every Thanksgiving in the candied yams (which, out of respect to mom, I won't eat. I figure if mom couldn't live to see me eat yams, no one else will, either.) Dad will be by my side, coaching me for the umpteenth time on the finer points of turkey-carving (I forget, dad. Am I supposed to cut WITH the grain or AGAINST it?)

My brother Bud will be there, sampling everything before it makes its way to the table, just like he always did. I think about Bud every Thanksgiving, no matter where I am celebrating it, because nobody loved this holiday more than he did. It brings together his two favorite things in all the world -- family and food. If you could throw a little horseback riding into the mix, Bud would be in heaven.

Which, come to think of it, he is.

Grandpa Schaeffermeyer will be sitting in that comfy chair, smiling that vacant smile that seemed to suggest that as happy as he was to be there with us, he'd a lot rather be camping at the mine -- snowy winter weather notwithstanding. Grandpa Jess will be out on the porch trying to smoke as unobtrusively as possible while Grandma Lujan bounces back and forth between fussing in the kitchen and cooing over fussy babies.

They will all be there -- whether or not we can see them. That's the way it is with family and tradition. It isn't just about turkey and dressing, candied yams and mashed potatoes. Nor is it as simple as bonding through good-natured (mostly) teasing, or through blood, sweat and tears shed innocently (sort of) on a basketball court. It is the mingling of new faces and old, the seen and the unseen, bound by love, respect and heritage.

A heritage that now includes Roman, Miles and Brian.


~ Joseph Walker ~
Copyright © 2010

Joseph Walker began his professional writing career as a staff writer for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, eventually becoming that newspaper's television and live theater critic. Since 1990 he has written a weekly newspaper column called ValueSpeak, which has appeared in more than 200 newspapers nationally. His published books include How Can You Mend A Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World for Deseret Book, The Mission: Inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Warner Books and three ghost-writing projects.  Please take a minute to let Joe know what you think of his story:  Joseph Walker
[ by: Joseph Walker Copyright © 2010 ( ) -- {used with permission} ]

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