My memories of Thanksgiving at home visit me in small doses.  For some reason, I can’t construct many full pictures of how they were when I was younger. Perhaps because there’s never really been a ‘typical’ Thanksgiving in my family.I do remember certain constants….Like the shuffle of my parents’ footsteps in the kitchen that woke us up early in the morning. The sound of lively Celtic music filling the house all day long. The pretty blue Denby dishes on the table- always the mark of a special meal. The guest list changed every year- really anyone was welcome. And of course, the house always smelled wonderful thanks to my mother’s cooking.

Earlier this week I started to slip into a bit of a melancholy when I realized that it’s been so many years since there was a regular holiday tradition in my family. Marriage, death, major moves and just getting older have required flexibility and change. I realized today that while it’s becoming harder to recall how those days were in their fullness, the most important pieces were locked into my memory at a young age….

First, there was always someone who planned -this was typically my mother or grandmother. They wanted the day to be special for everyone, so they spent hours choosing recipes, cleaning their homes, and putting together spectacular meals. Their thoughtfulness was the foundation of the day.

Second, there was always a spirit of gratitude and joy. No meal was eaten until everyone had an opportunity to share about their blessings.

Third, there was a lot of generosity. As a child, I felt a bit jealous for the day – wanting it to be just for our family. In retrospect, my parents’ example of adaptability for the sake of community is something I would never trade. Gifts and family are not to be hoarded.

Finally, there was an emphasis on savoring the day. The meal was eaten slowly and late in the day so that every bite and every moment could be enjoyed as much as possible.

So, here I am today. Missing my wonderful family – in Africa, the west Coast and various places in the South. My chilhood Thanksgivings are long gone, but the most important takeaways from those special times remain.  So, to honor those lasting memories my family gave me, I choose to make small plans for the people I love, to be gracious to anyone who needs a little extra attention or care, to focus on small and great blessings in my beautiful life, and to wring all of the good I can out of this holiday weekend.

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