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Thanksgiving Stole My Heart

Coffee fresh from the Keurig wafts through the house. I study the box of chocolates my sister in law brought me earlier this week. One empty space already lies between the Sucre Dark and Chicory Caramel. In the other room my children chatter with the neighbor’s child about which ornament goes where on the tree. Outside decorations twinkle in the twilight. Thanksgiving wraps itself around me like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer.

Seventeen years ago my parents loaded all my sister’s belongings into a small UHaul trailer and drove her halfway across the country to live. The same summer my husband’s brother and his new wife made a similar trek to their new home. To us, all in our early 20s, the start of a new life in a new city held adventure and possibility.

As time passed making the trip to see each other grew more difficult. Children, work, illness, natural disasters crowded into our lives. Modern technology allows us to share our lives with our family who live away, but a year of phone calls, texts and video chats left my arms empty. No amount of technology substitutes for wrapping my arms around my nephew (who somehow grew taller than me this year) and my niece (who can now share my shoes!).

We stayed up late visiting with both my husband’s brother and my sister. We planned some adventures and allowed others to take us by surprise. We laughed and told stories and shared pictures of the time we’d been apart. We shopped and ate and watched girls turn flips in the yard as the sunset colored the sky behind them.

Feeding schedules and nap times once dictated our holiday schedule. We sat in the floor entertaining babies and toddlers for a decade or more. We took turns eating while someone watched the kids. We fed little mouths before we fed our own. Now we hand them a plate and send them to the infamous “kids’ table”. This new phase of big kids (and teenagers!) slid right into our lives without announcing it’s arrival or slamming the door of toddlerhood behind it.

The night before Thanksgiving I mixed sweet potatoes for my husband’s grandmother’s sweet potato supreme. She’s the only grandparent either of us have left on this earth and we were not able to spend it with her this year. The first Thanksgiving of our marriage I called her and asked her for this recipe. My husband loves it so much I wanted to serve something from his family on our table that year. I look at the recipe and her voice over the phone repeats the steps to me. What if I had never asked her how to cook it?

When my children think back on the holidays, I hope they remember this one. From the morning until midnight we gripped family time close to us. We served family recipes, whether it’s grandma’s sweet potatoes or my cousin’s fried turkey or mamaw’s cookies.

Today we washed and folded the guest room sheets and stacked them in the linen closet. Only a spoon of those sweet potatoes remain in the pan. Our people draw closer to their own homes, and further from us, with every minute. The last four days offered no grand surprises or big trips. In fact, we planned very little of those days ahead of time. What made those days so...perfect?

Time. Perspective.

My coffee swirls around the bottom of my cup now. Madagascar 64 no longer stares at me from the chocolate box. Life resumes “normal”, but I’ll always think of this Thanksgiving, the warm hugs of family, the laughter late at night and the promise of another holiday soon to arrive.

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