I am ending my Thanksgiving holiday at my childhood home. The actual Thanksgiving Day was spent at my brother’s. There was more food there than two of our families could eat, and there were sixteen of us around the table. (11 were missing) After filling my plate, I looked down at it in astonishment. It was the equivalent of a day’s worth of food. I had heard several times in the last few days about how much we Americans overeat on Thanksgiving and had made a vow to not be one of the statistics. I failed miserably.
I felt a little off kilter to be honest. First, my husband couldn’t come. Second, neither could my sister and brother and their families. Third and most importantly, on the way to my brother’s, I had received a text that a close friend’s home had burned. I was too far away by the time the call came to get back in time to help. So I continued to my brother’s. But it didn’t feel right to be feasting. Yet here I was loading up my plate and laughing at all the jokes around the table.
My sister-in-law’s sister, Lynette, joined us for the day. I wrote about her in a previous blog, “Two Hats.” I wanted her day to be joyful, perfect. Yet here I sat across from her, talking to my husband as he hauled the one and only truckload that could be salvaged from our friend’s home to her parent’s. I felt so conflicted.
The Bible tells us to rejoice in all things. But rejoicing felt equal to making light of tragedies surrounding me. I was so thankful to be with family, celebrating our love for God and each other. But what I really wanted was to be back home holding my newly homeless friend in my arms. I wanted to be able to confidently proclaim that Lynette would join us next year. I wanted the crops to be all harvested so my husband could be beside me. And most of all I wanted my mom to look at me and know it was me.
I ended my visit putting up my parent’s tree with my youngest daughter’s help and visiting a high school friend. But the most special time I spent today was giving my mom a manicure. I thought back to all the years she took care of me and how it’s my turn to help take care of her. I don’t get enough time here to do that. And a lot of the time I’m unsure how to even help. But this visit I felt like I had been able to do somehing that made a difference. It didn’t matter that a few hours latter she asked if her nails needed cut. It just mattered that I was able to cut them for her.
This has been a strange, stretching Thanksgiving. It was a deeper one than ever before. It was about being joyful when you feel like crying. It was about being thankful for what you have, with all it’s flaws, realizing you may never have it again, realizing there are harder times yet to come. It’s about acknowledging we have to rejoice in the middle because we’ve been given a middle to rejoice in. It’s about preparing ourselves to rejoice in the end so that when the end comes we will be strong enough and wise enough to rejoice.