In my family, we go big for any cause for celebration, but the holiday that we have always assigned the most tradition to has always been Thanksgiving.
My mother, Jeanne Bragg, was born in Richmond, Va., to Edward and Lurie Canada. “Mawma,” as we fondly refer to her, is one of eight children (seven girls, one boy) who were raised in a very loving family.
When my mother was very young, her family moved to Knoxville, where she and her siblings would grow up, attending Catholic school every year of their education up until college.
Dad, having grown up in Murfreesboro and spending his Wednesdays and Sundays firmly fixed in the pews of First Baptist on East Main Street, met mother while they worked as Resident Assistants in Carrick Hall at the University of Tennessee in 1968. As has been chronicled in this periodical before, the two met and have been married for 45 years, having been married in Knoxville but lived in Murfreesboro for almost all of that time.
So, throughout my life my family has spent a great deal of time in Knoxville, and over the years, with both family growth and the loss of my dear Aunt “Big” Anne (who is my sister’s namesake) to cancer, our crowd at Thanksgiving often exceeds 35-plus people.
It is a time of incredible happiness shared amongst many generations, and my cousins and I share friendships that transcend normal familial bonds. We have all, over the years, taken the good with the bad and there hasn’t been a lack of either.
What has been shared over those years between the generations of the Canada family has been a fair share of hardship, anguish, progress, happiness, and above all love.
Oh, did I mention that we’ve shared movies as well? Once we’d all had our fill of tryptophan and the world’s most delicious Thanksgiving feast, the family breaks out into groups. Many aunts and female cousins head to Pigeon Forge for shopping at 5 a.m., male cousins will head to play golf or take their children to various activities, but when we were kids, we funneled into cars and got dropped off at the movies.
You can trace a dear love for the movie “My Girl” to its Thanksgiving release in 1991, when my cousins and I first realized what it was like to cry because of a film. The scene at the end of that picture when the main character Veda cries at the coffin of her friend Thomas J. after his premature death made us all tear up.
When “Mrs. Doubfire” was released two years later, we somehow happily laughed at the idea that Robin Williams cross-dressing and illegally seeing his children would make perfect sense as a way for an estranged father to visit his kids.
As we got older, our movie choices naturally changed from family fare into more esoteric and critically acclaimed movies.
We were marveled and dazzled by Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and Kevin Smith’s “Dogma.”
We scoffed at “Star Wars: Episode I” and the overuse of a litany of characters designed to seemingly muddle the simple story that George Lucas envisioned for the original Star Wars films.
The last movie we watched together and couldn’t believe was that “Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull” had brought aliens into what used to be a simple movie trilogy that involved an Archaeology professor who wasn’t afraid to murder people when he wasn’t lecturing.
All I know is that yesterday I flew from my home away from home into the most loving, caring, and consistently happy atmosphere anyone can imagine, and like every year, it’s better than I remembered.