As I sit here, Thanksgiving 2015 is one for the books. All the leftovers are tucked away in the fridge, the stuffed-to-the-gills dishwasher is quietly humming away, and we've eaten enough mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie today that it'll likely not be very tempting tomorrow.
So truth be told, our Thanksgiving wasn't a picture-perfect, Normal Rockwell experience. In spite of my best effort, the 'roasted' brussel sprouts bordered on burned , the pumpkin pie was too dry, and the crescent rolls were overdone on top and a bit too soft underneath. Perhaps a meal like this inspired the first dining room light dimmer switch?
Guess what? It didn't matter a bit.
Because here's what went right. Our home was warm, the rooms filled with people who dearly love each other. Little people made their presence known, with toys scattered on the family room floor, counters and tables that were baptized with a good dose of sticky. Noise levels peaked a few times at more than we're used to these days. Miss Lily hid under the coffee table more than once, to seek shelter from eager little hands. We started our day with cinnamon rolls, coffee and watching a parade and annual dog show, then suffered through our back up football team losing miserably, but we all watched it together.
The Littles learned how to pop a tube of crescent rolls, unfold the dough, then roll it up and put it on the cookie sheet - their first 'helping' in the kitchen for Thanksgiving. Those
burned overdone brussel sprouts were a new item on the menu, and that was fun even if they didn't turn out perfect. (I also have a penchant for burned food, seriously.)
We cleared the kitchen as Papa began his job of transferring that turkey from the pan to the platter. As he grabbed the electric knives I could almost hear Tevye click his heels and shout "Tradition!" I stood watching, feeling it seep in and fill a little more the places inside me that were empty for years, a little girl longing for something solid to stand on. He is my solid and 'thankful' doesn't begin to hold what he is to me. To us. Plates were overfilled, carried to the dining room, where we sat and held hands around the table - little in big, and big in little - and he thanked the Source of all good things for our food, for our health, for this year, for those we love gathered around this table, and also far away.
After dinner some of us sat and put our heads together, working on Little Pony puzzles at the kitchen table. I watched another little girl - too soon to be grown - bend her head over the task, wisps of shiny gold hair, pursed lips, furrowed brow as she leaned into the task of putting order to all those pink pieces of cardboard. Who knew there were so many ponies, they each have names, and personalities? I do now.
After dinner and a bit of cleanup, I took Miss Lily for a walk in our neighborhood, just the two of us.
Fall, shy for so long, finally decided to show up. Like a pretty wallflower hugging the walls surrounding the dance floor, it won't stay long before it decides it's time to go. Alone and quiet, I felt God whispering to me, 'see the last of the colors; hear the crunch under your feet. Store it up to remember on the grey days coming.' I grabbed a few of those reds and golds and tucked them in my pocket to take home with me. Everywhere we walked, I saw curbs and driveways, crowded with cars. All those houses full of people who love each other, and went to a lot of trouble to spend the day together. I smiled to think that there had to be some merry chaos going on, as the day wore on and annoyances of life likely crept into the mix.
At the end of the day, hours after the sun had gone down, we filled our plates again, this time with leftovers, or just another serving of pie, and we spent a last bit of time enjoying being together before the Littles would declare they were done. We talked a little bit about past Thanksgivings our family has shared, and what next year's holiday might look like. Where might we all be? Who would be together? What might change between now and then?
Who knows? This time last year my brother was alive. Two years ago my mother was here with us; traveling now would be too confusing for her. Life is beautifully fragile and uncertain and nothing stays the same. Except that God is good, all the time, and we love each other.
And that trumps a perfectly cooked meal every single time.