Friday, November 23, 2007

Why My Thanksgiving Needs Marcie

So, I spent Thanksgiving yesterday at my Aunt Mary's. Marcie loved Aunt Mary's on the holidays, and when she went, I could usually count on Grandma Pruett to corral her and conspire, sharing gossip and juicy tidbits in hushed tones. Marcie loved it.

Marcie did not always enjoy the "big dinner" aspect of my family's holidays. The whole "dozens of cousins" motif was way out of her league for crowds in tight quarters. But she got used to it, and when she did go, she learned a little about our family every time.

When she finally started to relax and enjoy herself in the herd of bustling family my grandparents' 17 children made for, Marcie opened up. She would pepper me with questions and observations on the ride home, overstimulated and stuffed to the gills with the hearty fare my family cooks up.

I remember the day she finally started to process it all. She was driving home one Christmas evening, having enjoyed a good dinner. I had played softball after breakfast, a ritual she watched and enjoyed, then we had dinner and headed for home.

"Now Robert was the one who was bellowing at your grandparents' house this morning, right? What do you call him, his nickname?"

"Yes, that was Robert, and we call him Bugs," I said.

She laughed a Marcie laugh, a cackle followed by a falsetto, "Oooh, my god, that's so funny. Okay, okay... your grandma told me he's a little nuts. Why did she tell me that?"

"She just wanted to make sure you knew, I guess, I don't know," I said. "He's alright."

"Oh, he seems very nice," she said. "But he's definitely a crazy pants. He is a character."

Down the roster she went, associating little bits of wisdom Grandma imparted about us all, or sussing out some snippet of overheard gossip. She cataloged it all, so I knew we'd be back, because nothing tickled Marcie's fancy like scandal, gossip, and people watching.

And nothing was more fun than relaying the rich family history behind the nicknames and the personalities, the family myths, legends and folklore, and just generally the Pruett (and in the early years, the McNab-Craigg) culture to her.

Grandma's death was very hard on Marcie, as it was on many people. Last night, I looked at the seats they used to sit in at Aunt Mary's and wished fruitlessly that they were there. It made me sad, but I distracted myself by chatting people up.

Grandma and Marcie weren't there and I will not get to live in those particular moments again. But I guess that, if the whole idea that she and grandma's souls or spirits or energies live on is possibly true, then there is also a possibility that they were sitting somewhere, watching.

Maybe they were cackling a bit together. Either way, it was comforting to be with family on Thanksgiving. The trip home was not easy, though.

It was hard to drive home in that silence after seeing so many family members. It was hard not to be able to share a little more of my life with her, to listen to her gleeful accounts of her gossip with grandma for the day.

I turned the radio off as I drove home last night. When I pulled into the driveway and noticed it had been off, I wondered why I had. Then I that it was my habit to leave it off when Marcie and I visited my family. I just automatically expected questions from her and the practice formed.

I know that habits are habits. But then, Marcie may have been right there with me all day and on the way home. I think I'll leave the radio off when I drive home on holidays, just in case.