Jennifer L. Grubbs: Ice cubes and good china

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Craig Daily Press Editor Jennifer L. Grubbs

This year will mark my first Thanksgiving spent without at least one member of my family.

My mother is planning to come to Craig this weekend, as long as the weather holds out, but this will officially be my first Thanksgiving by myself.

Granted, I'm planning to go either out to eat or to one of the church potlucks in Craig, where I will be surrounded by people, but it won't be the same as my last 28 Thanksgiving Days.

For me, Thanksgiving has always been a weird, but predictable, holiday. Most were spent at Grandma and Grandpa Graham's house in central Denver, with tons of extended family all sharing a huge - and I am referring to the quantity of food - meal.

We all had our roles in my younger years.

Grandma, Aunt Becky and Mom did most of the cooking. My littlest sister, Beth, set the table with Grandma's good china, sent to her by one of her brothers while he was serving in the Pacific in the U.S. military.

I would make the placecards (foreshadowing my future love of cardmaking and scrapbooking) and create the seating arrangement.

Another one of my jobs was to put ice in the glasses.

That tradition started when I was a really little girl. Grandma asked me to "put ice on the table," so I got out one of her smaller metal bowls and emptied the ice container in the freezer into the bowl, then placed it on the table. This was long before dinner was ready, so when we sat down to eat, there was a bowl of cold water on the table.

In future years, it was always my job to put ice in the glasses - not a bowl, and not too long before dinner.

My middle sister, Heidi, would help in the kitchen, and then she and I would help Beth set the table or help the grown-ups bring out the food.

Grandpa, Dad and Uncle Rob would put the extra leaves in the table. My baby brother, Nick, and younger cousins Tim and Katie Greenbank would make nuisances of themselves, getting in everyone's way.

As the years went by, sometimes we would have Thanksgiving at my parents' house in Sterling, or at Aunt Becky and Uncle Rob's house only blocks away from Grandma's. Sometimes we would all be together. Sometimes my aunt's family would not be there. Sometimes one or more of my siblings weren't there.

But I was there. It just always worked out that way.

The most memorable Thanksgiving, though, was in 2003. That was the year that Grandma was diagnosed with bile duct cancer right before the holiday. That was the last Thanksgiving we had with her, as she died in early January after not even two months of hospice care.

The next four Thanksgivings were somewhat different for the three G families (Grubbs, Greenbank and Graham). We no longer had our matriarch. The cooking was done entirely by Mom and Heidi, or Mom and Aunt Becky, with maybe a little help from Beth and me (neither of us are great cooks).

Beth continued setting out the good china, and I continued making placecards. Tim and Katie were old enough to be useful and were put to work. Nick wasn't there.

The location changed, too, as Heidi had her own apartment in the Denver metro area. We also went back to Grandma's house (I still thought of it as her house) last year.

It was different, but the same.

This year, though, is our first year without both Graham grandparents. My Grandpa died last May. He had been sick for a long time, battling heart disease, emphysema, diabetes, three types of cancer and other health issues, so in many ways his death felt like a blessing.

But it doesn't make it any easier at the holidays.

This year, Heidi is spending Thanksgiving in New Jersey, where our father currently lives and works. Aunt Becky, Uncle Rob, Tim and Katie are spending Thanksgiving with their Greenbank relatives. Mom is cooking for Nick and Beth, whose last name is now Baumgardt instead of Grubbs, and her new husband, Jeff.

I chose to come to Craig to advance my career and be part of this wonderful community and a great newspaper. Part of that choice, though, involved knowing that it no longer would be easy to zip away to a family dinner or gathering. So I will be spending Thanksgiving partly at the Daily Press, putting out Friday morning's newspaper, and eating my turkey dinner wherever I wind up.

It's kind of amazing that I managed to spend 28 of my soon-to-be 29 Thanksgivings with family, though.

One thing I really have to be thankful for is all of the memories I gathered over those years: like putting ice cubes in a bowl or the smell of Grandma's kitchen.

And someday I will hold big Thanksgiving dinners on Grandma's good china, which I inherited as the oldest granddaughter.

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