Capturing stories, building connections

A Thanks that Reaches Back More Than Forty Years …

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in MSM Blog


Almost as far back as I can remember, Thanksgiving has meant a large gathering of family from my Dad’s side. And when I say “large” I’m not kidding: Now, with four generations of Clements folk, we’re talking 50 or more descendants of my Dad and his two brothers. Yes, we require at least two large turkeys.
This week my wife, Julie, will be attending her fifth Clements Thanksgiving. She’s still a distinct newbie: You don’t earn “regular” status until your attendance has reached into at least the double-digits. It takes that long just to talk with everybody. Fortunately the past 40+ years have given our extended family many more births than deaths–though every Thanksgiving the two deaths (my Dad in 1983 and cousin Susan in 1992) yield a presence and a power undiminished by the years.
We’re an entertaining bunch: we talk, a lot, and usually at such a pitch and volume that it seems we’re fighting to drown each other out. But the stories flow, along with the beer and wine, as we unwind new stories and shout others for the umpteenth time, the latter “old” stories somehow gaining new dimensions and shedding old inconvenient ones to such an extent that the retelling only slightly resembles the first telling.
But that’s the joy of a family gathering like this, a gathering so often repeated it takes on the mantle of tradition–and more than that, really: It becomes a necessity. The twinkle in our eyes at just the mention of Thanksgiving should stand as thanks enough for the great gift our parents have given us.
The setting has bounced around a bit over the years, though it started at Uncle Walt and Aunt Kathy’s house–and it’s always been in the Chicago area. Our hosts today (and in recent years), cousin Walt and his wife Linda, are moving away soon. I’m sure we’ll continue gathering somewhere, but you never know.
So that’s why this year, before it’s too late, I’m going to be chronicling the 2012 Clements Thanksgiving Gathering through videotaped interviews. This is just too wonderful a tradition to let it go un-captured and un-recorded.
I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Happy Thanksgiving.

–Bill Clements