It’s Tuesday night, just a few days before Thanksgiving. My favorite family holiday all year. I love Christmas, July 4th, and all the other “big” days, but something about Thanksgiving just hits me right. Some years we go to a bar to start the day off, have a drink with some people I don’t get to see all that often. It’s always great. We take a big group picture and I love being in it. Some years, we ran the local 10K in our town. More recently with a daughter on the dance team we travel to the high school football game.
The afternoon is spent at my parents, with what feels like a million people. We have a great mix of people. Everyone has their space, their role on Thanksgiving. My uncle, a Catholic priest always says just the perfect grace just before we stuff our faces. It’s always brings a little tear to my eye, talking about who we have lost and who we have gained to this wonderful day.
My family sneaks out after the meal and has dessert with my wife’s side of the family. I guess they are my wife’s family, but really, they are mine. I’ve probably written it a few times, but I won the lottery when it comes to in-laws. I feel completely at home at my wife’s aunts house, always have, even as an insecure 17-year-old, and I always will.
Anyway, we finish the night by heading back to my parent’shouse and just as they have finished the last of the dishes, said goodbye to the last guest, we show up and immediately start reheating mashed potatoes and gravy for another quick little meal. We sit and just relax. Sometimes my wife will stay home, exhausted from the day, so she even gets a nice couple hours at home with the dog and a blanket, and I’m guessing it’s probably her favorite couple hours of her year. But the kids and I love our second dinner, we love putting on a movie with my parents and brother and sister and my God daughter, little miss Maya, and just trying to soak up the last few minutes of a great day.
It’s a day filled with traditions, and if you read my stuff, you know how I feel about those things.
But, this year, as you know, it’s just not the same. This is the year where having a big family just isn’t a benefit. We will be doing small meal with just a couple family members. For us, it is actually less people than a normal Sunday dinner at my parent’s house. And, I’ll be honest, I hate the idea of this day. I absolutely love the chaos. I love being cramped, I love fighting for a seat somewhere, I love not being able to hear myself think because of all the conversations floating around me. I live for a day like that. I’ll miss counting the seconds before I see my Uncle Paul spill something on his shirt. I’ll miss being in awe of my Uncle Mike. He’s the oldest by a mile in our family now, but he could easily kick the shit out of any of us. I’ll miss my aunt Kathy for a million reasons. Would be unfair for me to come up with my favorite reason for missing her, because she’s not really family to us, she much much more than that. I’ll miss walking passed my daughter Meg who is answering ballet questions from my Aunt Nancy. A conversation my daughter Meghan always loves. I’ll miss talking to my Uncle Billy about a concert from 1972, or the best new breakfast place around. I try to one up him and he says, “Oh yeah, Barney and I have been going there every Friday morning”.
There’s so much I’ll miss about this Thanksgiving. My favorite part of the last paragraph is I left out so many other important people and whatever quirk I notice about them. I have a million more memories of conversations, and moments from that day and I could write a book about. I love watching my aunts and uncles age. I love seeing them change from beer to decaf coffee. And I love learning that Auntie Sally’s stuffing, that I always thought for years and years was gross because it wasn’t the traditional stuffing, is actually the best stuffing on the planet. This was going to my first year not even looking at the traditional stuffing. As others mourn the loss of their senior year of high school, or their wedding date not being able to happen, I mourn the loss of Auntie Sally’s stuffing.
So, that’s where I land. Others have sacrificed so much this year, and I’m upset about stuffing. This is where I’m reminded just how lucky of a life I get to lead. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I’ve learned so much about kids, fallen in love with my wife again and again, and I’ve seen my rock, my Mom come out on the other side of a health scare. Something, someday, I’ll be able to put into words, but for now I’ll just thank my cousin Chris who always looks out for my family. He’s our guardian angel. He was too big for this world, but I always feel like he’s just sitting on the closest cloud in my sky. He’s been gone for like 17 years and he’s still my light in the dark.
Sure, I look forward to all of this being behind us. I look forward to the chaos that hopefully next year brings. But something tells me I’ll find new things to love about this Thanksgiving.
I hope whatever it is you choose to do this Thanksgiving you find the joy in it. Find those small moments and appreciate the silence, for soon enough we will be back to the chaos. The beautiful sound of chaos…