As I began to write this post this morning, my children were hopping up and down with excitement: their beloved cousins, who live outside of the United States and who they have not seen in months save Skype sessions, were sleeping downstairs. R and G were desperate to wake them up. They crept downstairs twice, standing outside of the rooms in which the boys were sleeping, whispering loudly. “But Mommy, why aren’t they awake?”
They made due with the unfortunate late wakeups by setting the breakfast table, making place cards for everyone, singing a mash-up of “Annie” songs, and taking out every toy in the house. They were beyond happy to be spending the next few days with family, their cousins especially, and they could not sit still.
Their joy is the best part of my holiday season. (That and pie, of course.) It’s what I like I best about gathering with family: the happiness we get from seeing people we care about and the chance to be with people we don’t see nearly enough.
It’s now several hours later, and our Thanksgiving celebrations are fully underway. We’ve been to the grocery store for last minute purchases (salsa, toilet paper, cheddar cheese, and toothpaste—the essentials). We’ve taken Nana’s dog for a walk in the rain. The kids have decorated—and eaten—molasses cookies. My daughter and youngest nephew have started an impromptu band in the next room. My son and older nephew are putting together a Jedi Interceptor Lego kit. The parents are catching up on reading and email before a crackling fire in the fireplace. I heard someone mention Pictionary.
Our Thanksgiving is pretty straightforward: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, wine, mashed potatoes, and pie. Vegetables, too, and an oyster dish my husband’s aunt makes every year. A Swedish corn casserole comes courtesy of my mother-in-law’s dear friends. This Thanksgiving, we’ll eat in the late afternoon, awaiting the arrival of extended family.
We spend the day before our dinner cooking, eating, watching sports on TV, and catching up. We go for walks—hopefully the rain will abate—and we’ll tell funny stories of Thanksgivings past. We’ll remember the year my kids brought a stomach virus to Thanksgiving—and then gave it to everyone who came to dinner. (We can laugh about it now; it wasn’t funny at the time. I’ve never looked at green bean casserole the same since then.) Some of the family members will entertain one another with Southern accents and funny nicknames, a tradition from a time well before I came into the picture.
And, after dinner, there will be music. My husband’s family is filled with extremely talented musicians, and we are lucky that they perform for us at the holidays. A harp, violin, guitar, and drums will join together, playing beautiful music as the kids dance around the room, and the adults sing along. Perhaps this year my kids will show off what they’ve been learning in piano lessons, or maybe my daughter’s obsession with “Annie” will inspire a family performance.
Afterward, we’ll go to bed, full and happy. And thankful.