La Verne Magazine
Spring 1999

"Defining Family"


From the Editor...

by Erin Grycel

At the age of 5, my definition of Thanksgiving was dinner at Mama's house, my great-grandmother's house, on Mar Vista Avenue in Pasadena. With my new dress, tricycle and hand-made turkey decoration, I eagerly awaited the holiday. In my young mind, the day symbolized a huge selection of food and a day to see all 50 of my relatives.

Walking up to the house, I would proudly carry the mashed potatoes and anticipate playing the piano with my cousins. When the back door opened, I was always smothered with hugs and kisses. Chattering filled the air; women complemented one another on their dresses, while the men debated over which college teams would go to the Rose Bowl. The annual "Twilight Zone" marathon would be blasting on the television in the family room, and the sound of feet pattering up and down the stairs could be heard throughout the house.

As I would make my way into the crowded dining room, I would always stop to watch my great-grandmother busily cooking over the stove. I could almost taste the turkey, the simmering gravy, the green beans and the cranberries in the air. The door between the kitchen and the dining room was constantly swinging as my great-grandmother moved with the food. Admiring her strength, I always thought that she worked the whole time, but, actually, it was her special day to shine. Without the family, she claimed that life was incomplete. Her motto was, "The more the merrier ... invite whomever you want to dinner; they will become part of our family." The holiday was an annual tradition; but, secretly, my great-grandmother was cultivating our familial bonds.

Over the years, Thanksgiving dinner changed. The families became larger, and my great-grandmother at age 88 had to give up her role as the entertainer. My childhood memories have mashed together into a melting pot, filled with special anecdotes, along with a true understanding of family.

So, I ask you, whom do you sit down and have dinner with at the end of the day, share a cup of hot chocolate with in the winter, or eat watermelon with at the beach? Whatever person comes to mind qualifies as a family member. The individuals who share the high points and low points in one's life constitute a type of family, from a five-month bonding period as foreign exchange students, to a support group, to the camaraderie that develops between a coach and team players.

In the late 20th century, the definition of family varies from one individual to another. Whenever I feel scared or confused, I drive home, and my house will always be a security blanket for me. For someone else, eating cookies with a life-long friend may be their solace within their everyday routine.

Every year, when cornucopias and turkeys are displayed in the windows of craft stores, I am filled with nostalgia. When I close my eyes, I still envision the warmth and happiness that I felt as a child, standing by the large table on Thanksgiving Day.

Although time keeps moving forward, I cannot forget my great-grandmother's tradition. I excitedly prepare for the holiday, and, without fail, the day of Thanksgiving proves to be a rekindling of family relations and an invitation to new individuals who will walk through our front door and "become part of our family."



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