Our children are married with families of their own and some of their children are married so our attendee number for holidays varies every year.

This Thanksgiving we were only missing the members living out-of-state. The rest of the clan – all seventeen of them – arrived with their traditional offerings to share.

Daughter #2 served as hostess and prepared a Pioneer Woman brine turkey that was moist and tasty and the dressing and homemade cranberry sauce. Her traditional chess pies were baked this year by her step-daughter. Tradition remained though the cook varied. As she said, “it’s good to pass the torch.”

Daughter #1 brought pecan-crusted sweet potatoes and a bag full of yummy baked goods like cranberry orange bread, enough for all to carry home. And, a can of jellied cranberry, a husband’s favorite.

One Aunt brought deviled eggs and brown-and-serve rolls, her annual contributions. She served the eggs on a special egg dish of another gone-to-glory aunt. We felt her presence, smiling down from heaven.

Another Aunt brought her special recipe cheese ball. This was the first Thanksgiving she and her husband weren’t together in their fifty years together. His Parkinson kept him at his Memory Care home. The beginning of new tradition, we’re hoping.

Granddaughter #1 brought her husband’s family tradition – a pound cake made by his grandmother’s recipe. A new tradition, we all agreed when she and hubby join our festivities. Newly married, they alternate holidays between their families. We had them this Thanksgiving.

Step-daughter’s mom joined in with homemade mash potatoes that were creamy and smooth. We’re counting on a repeat performance for next year’s Thanksgiving feast.

I contributed the scalloped corn and the classic green bean casserole and an orange pineapple jello salad no one has eaten since they were toddlers. I can’t seem to stop myself

A vintage 1950s fall tablecloth covered one of the tables. A remnant from family or a prize antique shop purchase, no one remembers. It’s just always been around along with the honeycomb tissue paper turkey in the center of the table.

Pepa carved the bird and grandchildren lined up for first tastes of slices from the carver himself. We all know nothing tastes better.

The football game played on the very large screen TV. Grandsons and Pepa cheered their team to victory.

The granddogs, banished to the bedroom, quietly wondered at all the commotion and Auntie’s dog, who came along, relished the pats and extra laps.

All in all a lovely day filled with traditions that remind me of Tevye’s words in the song from Fiddler on the Roof.

“Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!”

But I was also reminded Thanksgiving traditions, while lovely and touching, aren’t based on the things on the table or around the table but in the love that surrounds us.