First, as I was growing up, Thanksgiving and Christmas both were these complex affairs that centered around my two sets of grandparents. We'd always go down to Middleboro for the first family feast, my family would break bread, and the adults would all bicker and laugh while the kids ran around outside trying to figure out the least safe games to play with each other. This changed as I grew up, obviously; my grandfathers both passed away, and some of my cousins and aunts moved off to different places. ...but the core "two halves of the same holiday" stayed in place, so long as I was spending the holidays with my folks.
Even after my wife and I started alternating holidays, the Massachusetts trip still seemed inviolable in its structure. It simply was always a two-part holiday. It seemed as if it always would be.
Things changed when my father's mother passed away just short of her 100th birthday. I suppose we never really stop mourning those who have passed away, else re-reading the eulogy I delivered would not make me tear up two and a half years later. ...but her absence was felt today quite keenly, as was my grandfather's. Today, you see, was their wedding anniversary, and my sister felt it was eminently appropriate that we pay our respects. Today, unlike the last two trips out to Boston-land, I realized that my personal holiday-world really had gone from two Thanksgivings down to one.
Second, of course, was the fact that today was their wedding anniversary. My paternal grandfather, my "Djadek," had his first stroke when I was still quite young, so my memories of him before that point are hazy at best. I do remember him still breaking bread, though often with tears in his eyes, on Thanksgiving, but after he passed in the mid-90s, it became easy to focus on my grandmother, my "Machute," rather than thinking of the pair of them and what Thanksgiving meant to others in the family. After all, I only got married three years ago, and marriage was sort of this nebulous thing before then. Now, it's concrete. ...and I honestly didn't even recall this was their anniversary until my father reminded me a week ago.
Third, this trip marks the first time I've met my nephew. Intellectually, I know that he's very much like every other baby everywhere else, but this kid? He's my sister's. That's both unbelievable and amazing to me at the same time, and the family-centric nature of the holidays make me wonder very much what his future Thanksgivings will hold.
Fourth, this is the first time I've visited their gravesite since my Aunt Christina died. Christina was buried beside her parents on their plot, and it was she who inherited their house after Machute passed away. This is the first time I was in Middleboro without a house nearby that I could lay some small claim to. This was the first time I'd been there without Aunt Chris around. It was really, really strange.
My father said that the people who moved into my grandparents' house after it was sold made lawn chairs and tables and sold them by the side of the road for a while, almost the same exact way that my father and his father had made furniture in that same house not long after they built it and moved in. Everything, I suppose, is a cycle.
I'm not even really sure if there's a point to this post, per se. All I know is that I went to my grandparents' graveside today to pay our respects and to wish them a happy anniversary. We found lichen on their gravestone which we cleared off and a Red Sox medallion left there by my sister back in April. We had dinner at a restaurant down in Plymouth that we'd last gone to with my grandmother, and I stood outside along the waterfront afterward and watched the full moon -- the Mourning Moon -- peek out from behind the clouds.
Happy anniversary, Machute and Djadek. Good bye, Aunt Chris. Thanksgiving isn't the same without you.