Ruibal column: Building a table across generations, differences
This is my first Thanksgiving away from my family. But, truth be told, we haven’t really celebrated Thanksgiving for several years.
My granny would cook a nightly dinner composed of a protein, veggies grown from the garden, bread made from scratch and homemade dessert.
Thanksgiving was her Super Bowl.
She would prepare 90 percent of the meal at her house in the small, vintage kitchen. She would then transport the goods and finish it off at my mom’s house. Sometimes my mom was trusted with a dish such as the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. Sometimes.
The turkey carcass would then be repurposed to make stock for gumbo at Christmas. Nothing went unused.
But, as Alzheimer’s took hold, my granny didn’t have the energy or interest for even an everyday meal.
So we got creative.
I brined turkeys overnight for a couple years — a method my granny had never heard of and I learned from studying Food Network. One year we made tamales from scratch.
My mom and I took the approach that Thanksgiving isn’t about turkey. It’s about coming together over a meal that all enjoyed. I remember some of the dishes that my granny slaved over all Thanksgiving morning, but what I really remember is how special it was for my mom to not have to work and be able to join us in a meal.
This past weekend, friends invited me over for a “Friendsgiving” consisting of the best parts of the holiday meal — side dishes and booze. A co-worker has invited the “orphans” of the office to her home on Thursday for the full deal.
A month ago, a couple from the gym I go to invited me to their house for a Broncos watch party.
Once, when I was at the movie theater in El Jebel alone, a woman invited me to her 57th birthday party.
This valley can be a lonely place to move to at 22 years old. According to a recent census, less than 10 percent of the Glenwood Springs population is 18-24 years old. Some of the people that I’ve befriended have seemed a little taken aback when I reveal how young I am. But it never feels to me like the reaction is that they can’t relate to someone my age, but that they assume I don’t want to hang out with someone not in that 18-24 range.
I do want to, though.
After all, my best friend growing up was in her 80s.
A lot of media and just general human prejudice will pit my generation against ones before it and vice versa. I get it — young people are weird. But we’re also creative, entrepreneurial, confident and stupidly quick to fix tech problems. There’s commonalities and differences we can both learn from. We can be a whole lot better together.
My granny died recently, and it was the first close death I had experienced. Which means it was also the first time I experienced firsthand how church ladies sweep into action with casseroles and other provisions.
In the obituary my mom wrote, she included the detail that granny would bake loaves of her famous zucchini bread without raisins just for me.
One of the meals a church lady provided included Waldorf salad. It came in two different versions, one with raisins and one without.
So this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for everyone who’s given me a place at the table. I’m thankful for the differences — different dishes, different perspectives, different experiences — everyone brings to the table. And I only hope I can do the same for others moving forward because, as the saying goes, “When you have more than you need, build a bigger table, not a higher fence.”
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