So it’s the day after the day after Thanksgiving. And I am sitting here thinking about the holiday. I bet I speak for a lot of us when I say that this holiday wasn’t what I expected. And it wasn’t what I wanted. No … not that. It wasn’t what I thought I wanted. What I wanted was a Thanksgiving that was like those of my youth, with family and laughter and sharing old memories and making new memories. We used to all gather at my parents’ house. My mom would cook all day getting ready for it, even though everyone brought something. My two sweet, beloved aunts, my uncles, all the cousins — basically anyone who was able to make it — would all gather around for the big meal. Afterward, we would tell all the stories — the same ones every year — but, of course, no one minded a bit. We would work puzzles or play board games or challenge each other to dominoes. We would get rowdy and loud. At the time, I don’t think I truly appreciated it. Because it was all I knew, it was boring to me. It was just “more of the same”. But now, I look back on those beautiful Thanksgiving holidays, and they make me feel warm inside. How I miss them.
For the many years that we lived in Virginia, we celebrated Thanksgiving with dear friends. It was a make-shift family, cobbled together out of shared experiences and lots of love. And, yes, there was laughter and the sharing of stories and good memories. My sweet friend who always hosted has the most amazing, beautiful little house. I think it is one of the most sheltering and welcoming places I have ever been, and being able to share the holidays with them — knowing that these incredible people were willing to open their hearts and home to us — meant everything. It still does, even now. I am sitting here, smiling to myself, as I remember those warm Thanksgivings of my recent past.
This year, there weren’t any travel plans. There was no gathering of family and friends. Because, of course, we are still living through the time of ‘Rona. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting, isn’t it? I know I am so sick and tired of the stress and worry and heartache. And yet, we have to remain brave in the face of it all. For me and my family, part of being brave this year was admitting that it wasn’t safe to travel or to gather with our family or friends, no matter how much we wanted to see people and hug them in person.
So we had a quiet Thanksgiving at home. To be honest, I went into Thanksgiving week dreading it. I wanted to see my parents and my brother. If I couldn’t see them, I wanted to see our dear friends. I wanted to hug people so tight. I just … I wanted it so badly I could feel it in the deepest part of my heart. And it hurt to know I wouldn’t — couldn’t — have that. I didn’t see how this holiday would be any good for any of us. I didn’t see how it could possibly be happy or jolly or … well, “holiday-ish”.
But you know what happened? Somehow, Thanksgiving worked its magic. Outside, the weather was bleak and gray and chilly. But inside our house — our home — it was warm and comfortable and cozy. My daughter and I cooked together. We made stuffing and two pies. We played Christmas music. We danced around the kitchen and sang as loudly as we possibly could. We told funny stories. We shared memories. We laughed — a LOT. I don’t know if you realize this, but Time is such a valuable commodity when you have a seventeen-year-old child who is on the cusp of leaving the nest. We can buy all sorts of things in our lives. We can shop for anything on the internet and have it delivered right to our doorstep. But you can’t buy Time. There’s not enough wishes or money in existence to allow that to happen. Time is a gift from the universe.
On Thanksgiving Day, my little family of three gathered around our table. We played favorite Christmas songs in the background. We said a prayer. And we talked about the past and the future. There were old memories and new memories. We were all together, warm and cozy in our home, with a beautiful abundance of food for our meal. We were all healthy and safe. We were all alive. Maybe we can’t see our families or our close friends, but our families are all healthy. And our friends remain healthy, too. This year has been such a shit-show, from start to finish. Our family has had struggles this year, the same as everyone, I am sure. But, when we were sitting there together around our little table, I realized how incredibly fortunate we have been. In those moments, it hit me: we are so amazingly, incredibly blessed. And I am thankful.
In the end, this year’s Thanksgiving will live in my memories, shaded in the sepia tones of old photographs. In so many ways, it was a throwback to the holidays of my youth: quiet and slow-paced and so, so beautiful. I think it will remain one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever. It wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t what I thought I wanted. And yet, it was just exactly what I needed.