Thanksgiving has been my favorite family day since I was a little girl. We moved around a lot when I was growing up, but I don’t recall a single Thanksgiving away from my grandparents. I loved helping prepare the meal with my grandma, and didn’t mind getting up early to begin the labor of love in the kitchen. The hustle and bustle was exciting to me, and I considered myself a pseudo adult when, after my grandpa pulled the leaf from under his bed and put it on the table, I was allowed to put the table cloth on followed by the china and good silver. I remember making sure the forks, knives and spoons were all placed just so. My grandpa had a large family, so there were many times that my brother and I ate at the “kids'' table. We had our own table cloth and our own special dishes, and not one time did we feel left out because we weren’t at the big table. My grandma made sure of that. After we ate, my brother and I inevitably ended up playing outside until it was time for leftovers.
Some memories and feelings last a lifetime and Thanksgivings are that for me.
As I grew, the older generations began to go Home, and the younger generations began having children. Our Thanksgivings went from my grandmother’s house to my dad’s, and the outdoor time afterwards grew from just my brother and I to include our sister, our spouses and our children and an epic football or softball game. It was important for us to be together and for our children to look forward to those days like we did. The laughter of our kids filled the air, and we reverted to being kids ourselves. Thanks was always given for those moments in time when the world didn’t exist beyond that front yard and flag football.
This season of life has brought many changes so I hold those days especially close and remember them with the same unspoken thanksgiving that I had then surveying how wonderful my family was and is. I remember the laughter and banter so vividly that I can close my eyes and see that beautiful China. I can see my grandmother making homemade giblet gravy and the amusement in her eyes when I refused to touch that disgusting neck. I can see my kids and their cousins giggling uncontrollably as they made a touchdown while my dad laughed and shook his head at the shenanigans of his tribe, all the while beaming with pride. I can see the appreciation on my granddad’s face when we prepared a Thanksgiving feast and brought all of his great grandchildren to the nursing home to celebrate that day with him. I can see it all so clearly and I’m so thankful that I have those memories because in those memories, I still spend Thanksgiving with the ones that have left an empty chair at the table.
I still look forward to Thanksgiving despite adding three empty chairs in such a short time, but I know full well the emptiness that tries to creep in to rudely interrupt a treasured day. I know the deep breaths required to overcome the emptiness and the need to discreetly step away for a moment to regroup.
The world stops on this day so families can spend time together. There’s no pretense and no gifts to exchange. On this day, our time is the gift, but there are many hurting people that will not receive that gift from someone they love this year, and my heart and prayers are with you. Whether you are surrounding yourself with family and friends or sitting this one out, do yourself a solid. Go back to the Thanksgivings before. Remember. Smile. Reminisce. Your loved ones left gifts there and they are waiting to relive them with you.