Once again, as is the usual practice, my children will be away from me at Thanksgiving. They’ll be in Colorado with their father and his family. This has largely been the case since we parted ways back in early November of 1995. That very first year was a difficult one. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays—it seems the ultimate expression of my theology: a combination of gratitude and communion, but our parenting agreement was that the kids would be with their dad for that particular holiday. I remember feeling a true loneliness on that first Thanksgiving without my kids, but other than that longing, I have no recollection of what else happened. I don’t remember with whom I spent the day or where it was I ate dinner.
Since that time, I have spent my Thanksgiving Thursday in many different ways, sometimes cooking my own meal at home, sometimes as a guest in someone else’s house. For the last three years, I’ve joined my new husband Ron’s brother’s family in dinner at their home. A couple of those years we were able to have my eldest son Eric with us, and we were joined with Ron’s extended family. This year, Eric and his fiancé will be traveling to Colorado, too, and Ron and I will both be childless. I feel so fortunate to be welcomed so completely into the home of these sibling-in-laws. They have three lovely daughters who have become my dear nieces. Somehow the girls sense, or their mother reminds them, of our woe, and they sidle themselves up to us with warmth and kindness. I know I am blessed to have these dear people as my new family.
I also know that despite all the whining over my family’s separation, there are those in our community who spend Thanksgiving without any relatives at all. Their family may be smaller to begin with, or they may choose to spend it with people they prefer. Or they too, may simply be experiencing sadness despite the composition of their table.
Members of our congregation have made a ministry out of having a Thanksgiving dinner at church. Last year, a number of people, some families, some singles, some guests, spent a calm and pleasant afternoon together, chatting, eating, enjoying the gifts of this community. If you find yourself without plans, I hope you’ll join the folks who create the welcome table in Fellowship Hall. Come, come, whoever you are.
P.S. I’m sharing again my usual favorite Thanksgiving blessing adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson:
Spirit of Life, behold our family here assembled. We thank you for this place in which we dwell, for the love that unites us, for the peace accorded to us this day, for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food and the bright skies that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth. Amen.