This year, Thanksgiving comes to my family amid changes. Faces that should be at the table won’t be. Less family, fewer chairs, smaller turkeys. Who knew, when my husband and I volunteered to take the holiday off his mother’s shoulders almost twenty years ago, we’d claim ownership to a guest list that would often exceed thirty? Somehow we managed to seat them all. It warms me that our twenty-five year old niece calls Thanksgiving at our house her favorite holiday.
Of course I expected at some point things would change. Kids grow up, schedules conflict, people move. But expecting isn’t the same as experiencing. Folks seem to enjoy Thanksgiving in our little world. Tables that stretch from the dining room to the far end of the living room. A bar we are forced to set up in the garage. I crossed my fingers that we’d keep our tradition going a little longer.
I wish I knew last Thanksgiving, that 2013 would be the one that would be different. That illness would wrap its fingers around one. That geography would claim several more. I would have taken a moment to pause during last year’s flurry of gravy making and potato mashing to mark the moment. All that family surrounding us. Had I been conscious of the pending adjustment, I would have made a point to sear the joy of that day deep into my mind. Or better yet, my heart.
We’re still hosting the holiday. There will be nineteen at the table. But as I roll out pie crusts, I’ll be conscious of those not with us. Those flying in inclement weather. Driving on icy roads. I’ll say a prayer. I’ll baste the turkey. I’ll be delighted our daughter doesn’t have to work. I’ll give my husband a hug. Most of all, I’ll give a good long look at the family present and acknowledge what we still have. Then I’ll offer up gratitude for last year, and all the Thankgivings that have gone on before.
Wishing you all a joyful holiday, surrounded by those you love.