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By River Stillwood
It’s quiet in the house. Fog blankets the hillsides and soft gray light fills the room. Misty rain patters against the windows. The dogs sleep, one’s paws scratching dreamily on the hardwood floor. From the kitchen swirls the warm smell of fresh coffee trickling into the carafe. Morning gently wraps around me. You couldn’t ask for one a more beautiful beginning to the day.
It’s almost Thanksgiving and my thoughts are on family and friends. This year, I’ll spend the holiday in Arizona. A whirlwind trip to visit, celebrate, and give thanks. Mom will be there, driving in from San Diego after an overnight in Yuma. Branch, too, flying in from Costa Mesa via Las Vegas. Quinn lives in the Phoenix area, so he’ll come by way of surface streets.
We will gather at my big brother and sister-in-law’s home. Krist and Mary.
Amazing people. They were especially hard hit when the economy crashed a couple of years ago. At the time, Krist worked in car sales and Mary in real estate, the two industries to suffer the most after the financial collapse. With their daughters Krista in college and Trisha in middle school, the tough times were made even tougher. Yet, they supported each other, worked incredibly hard, and persevered. Now they are stronger and more solid than ever.
Krist retired from the car firm and is now enjoying The Good Life of a 65-year old with a magnificent wife and family.
Mary is doing soulful work. She’s a people person and has a people person job showing model homes.
Krista graduated from college a year ago and just recently became engaged to a young man named Ryan. He’ll be at the gathering, too, so I’ll get to measure his mettle. Make sure he’s good enough for my beloved niece. Since he’s already been approved by Krist and Mary, and most importantly Krista, and has proven his professionally savvy, I have no doubt that Ryan will more than pass muster with me. Still, it’s my duty as an aunt to make sure.
Trisha is now in high school. The last time I spoke with her it was to get her expert advice on how to attach cell phone photos to an email, but that was several months ago. I haven’t spoken to her since so I don’t yet know what she thinks of her fellow students or classes or afterschool activities. I don’t even know if she’s dating. It will be marvelous to find out.
If this Thanksgiving celebration is similar to those of years past, it will be a long, happy day filled with far too much food, bushels of joy, baskets of laughter, and hour stacked upon hour spent filling up on the details of each other’s lives. When we sit down to dinner, we will raise our glasses, as always, to toast our loved ones far and near. We’ll give voice to our greatest blessings, sharing them at the table, then adding to the list throughout the day. A common refrain will likely be, “Oh, I’m also thankful for…”
Each of us has been blessed in so many ways. Then we will eat. And eat. And eat. And be thankful for the food, the company, the elastic in our waistbands.
We will talk of Krist’s retirement and Mary’s job. And Branch and Quinn’s recent travels. And Mom’s healing broken heel and increasing mobility. And my new horses, Scout and Sundance. Much time will likely be spent discussing Krista and Ryan’s wedding and Trisha’s latest activities.
We will talk of Virginia, how many wonderful Thanksgivings we were fortunate to share with her, how loving and generous she was, how much she enriched our lives, how much we miss her now that she is gone. We will talk of Aunt Elaine and cousins David and Richard and their families. And Carl and Jeanie and Maureen and Lisa and others from Mary’s side of the family.
We will talk of friends. Mine will include one whose grandmother made a miraculous recovery from cancer surgery, another whose father will be home from the hospital by Thanksgiving, a third who is spending the day with a beloved daughter, still more who will be gathering around a festive potluck and bon fire, and others who will celebrate the day without feast or fancy, but rather with a loving glance or touch, a simple dinner, and an all-encompassing, heartfelt “Thanks.”
Just before or after dinner, we will call Dad and Holly Anne at their home in Sarasota, Florida. Dad is doing well these days, his cancer in check.
Holly Anne is fine. We’ll hear about the new light they had installed in the kitchen and how the cats are doing and what they’re most interested in these days. (Holly Anne has wonderfully eclectic tastes). She and Dad just gathered in Tampa for a family reunion and birthday celebration with Holly Anne’s family. We’ll hopefully hear about that, too. Yet, when we hang up, the call with them will have been too short.
Throughout the day, everyone gathered in Arizona will share love and hugs, compassion and sympathy, support and encouragement. We will sing praises and shoulder hurts and offer advice and suggestions.
We’ll debate politics, but not too stridently, discuss current events, skipping those most dreadful. We’ll tell jokes and watch a little TV and probably take a walk or two. And when the day winds down and one by one we part, to go to bed or to home, we will be thankful that the people that know us best love us and want to be with us. That through thick and thin and trials and tribulations, we continue to gather together as a family. And that individually and as a family, we are blessed beyond measure.
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I hope this Thanksgiving that your plate is full, your heart hums with the sound of joy and laughter, and your cornucopia overruns with blessings.