Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day musings...

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always my mom's holiday to host. She loved it. I can remember her making the stuffing the night before, helping cut up bread into cubes and then toasting it (which I never understood why you'd do that if you wanted moist stuffing) and eating a few of the squishy cubes along the way. I've got vivid memories of our kitchen in the hour or so prior to the big meal, my mom and her cousins' wives all in there taking care of last minute preparations. Flo always -- always -- brought her special hand potato masher to use, because the mashed potatoes wouldn't taste right being done any other way. Someone would hold the pot, and she would mash them into white, fluffy goodness. Sometimes we'd play some sort of game that lasted the whole day. One year, it was the safety pin game...everyone got a safety pin, and if you were caught crossing your legs, you lost your safety pin. Somewhere, I have the funniest picture, taken at dinner time, of Wilma peeking under the table cloth during the meal, trying to catch someone off-guard and take their pin.

As we kids got older, got married and had kids of our own, it was no longer feasible to continue the same hosting arrangements for the holidays. There was more extended family to be considered and to share the holidays with, and so things changed. Unfortunately, they changed the same year my dad died, which made things even more different that year. No dad. No big family Thanksgiving. Life goes on.

A couple years later, though, I found myself in my mom's place. Thanksgiving became my holiday to host for my mom and step-dad and my in-laws. Some years we had as many as fifteen people here around our table. The only year I didn't cook was the year I was pregnant with our second child and due within the week. I vividly remember our first Thanksgiving was the first year my husband and I were married. My son was eight. I remember that morning, all three of us cuddled in our big bed, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, late autumn sun streaming in through the windows. Later that day, I remember my husband carving the turkey that had cooked overnight (that's how Mom used to do it, as she said it helped cut down on the mess later in the day), standing in our chilly kitchen, that same soft gold sun shining through the bare branches of trees and into our kitchen resulting in shadows and light that will always be a part of my memory of that day. It was so special.

Now here we are, fourteen Thanksgivings later, and things have changed again. My mom and step-dad moved to Florida last year, and while they came back for Thanksgiving last year, they aren't doing so this year (they'll be here for Christmas instead). I miss my mom's presence. I had to bake the pumpkin pies this year. That's what she always brought. I realized, as my daughter and I were mixing the filling yesterday, that I don't even own the right spices for pumpkin pie filling because I never needed to make it before. (We improvised. Hopefully they'll be edible.) I just spent a half hour on the phone with my mom this morning, talking about our day ahead (they'll be celebrating with some friends down mom hosting the meal) and other things of little consequence. Just the talking is nice, though. Thank God for unlimited calling plans.

And this year, my oldest son is also missing from our Thanksgiving picture. He'll be celebrating this day at Parris Island, with the drill instructors and 84 other recruits in his platoon at basic training. I keep hoping he might get to make a call home today, but I'm prepared for it not to happen. Or for it not to be to me, anyway, as he does have a wife who is higher up on the call list. Either way, I miss him. He's a third of the way through his training almost, so I just keep thinking about his graduation in January and seeing him then. But it is still going to make today (and Christmas) feel strange.

I might feel a little blue today because of the changes that have happened this year, but it doesn't make me any less thankful. I know I am blessed...with love and family and health and a home and food and more material things than I really need. More than anything, I have the promises of the one who provides these blessings, the one who says, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes. 5:16-18)

And so I give thanks...for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.


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