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11/26/2008 12:13 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Keep Traditions Alive

This year I will spend Thanksgiving at my parent's house, as usual. We'll have the customary menu -- turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad (don't forget the black olives), and pumpkin pie with lots of spices. I will make the key dish, my grandmother Clara's green beans. There is some controversy among Clara's granddaughters about her exact ingredients, but my green beans, more or less, are her green beans -- with onions, bacon, and a little bit of sugar and apple cider vinegar. Yum. My grandmother passed on over 10 years ago, but she'll still be represented at our table -- it wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner without her green beans, or our memories.

As we plan our own Thanksgiving dinner, I can't help but wonder about the Obamas' holiday season. Who will do the cooking and baking? Does First Grandmother-elect Marian Robinson have her own signature dishes -- like my grandmother's green beans? Will she teach her granddaughters the family recipes, as my grandmother taught me?

The Obamas have traditionally spent Thanksgiving in Chicago with the future First Lady's family, but they have celebrated Christmas in Hawaii, with the President-elect's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who passed away just before election day. So many of us can relate to Barack Obama's loss of his grandmother and the way it will change his family. But just like my grandmother Clara, I'm sure she will continue to be represented in their holiday traditions in some way.

All families find comfort in their holiday traditions, and many look to grandparents as the guardians of rituals that unite all generations. I'm sure Marian Robinson will ensure that her family's customs are upheld, even while other aspects of their lives are turned upside down as they move to the White House. These touch points of tradition are crucial for her grandchildren as their lives undergo tremendous change.

The grandparents who have visited our website this week have told us they will celebrate Thanksgiving in a variety of ways. Some will welcome children and grandchildren from across the country at their holiday table, while others will fly from coast to coast to share the meal with their families. Some tell us they"re ready to give up holiday hosting chores, while others insist that despite their children's generous offers, they"ll keep hosting Thanksgiving in their own homes. Some grandmothers tell us that even when they go to their children's homes, they still do the traditional cooking, although many are also willing to try new additions to their menus. But no matter the menu or the guest list, as one grandmother put it, there will always be "lots of fun, hugs and always great food." Even those grandparents experiencing strained relations with in-laws say they plan to put those differences aside to make the day as positive and as memorable as possible for their grandchildren. They know Thanksgiving is a day for focusing on the big picture, letting the little things go, and being thankful for having a family to share the day with-as imperfect as all families are.

Grandparents also tell us that they will try to stress to their grandchildren the importance of giving thanks. My grandparents instilled in me a deep sense of thankfulness for family during the holidays. The traditions, and even the locations, may change over time, but the fundamentals remain constant. Because it is about the green beans, but it's also about who you share them with.

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