One of the first Thanksgiving memories I have was the one in which my sister Dub's teacher game for dinner. I remember her name...Mrs. Tozer, Geraldine, and her husband's name, Warren. It was the second Thanksgiving after my mom had died, and the turkey was not defrosted! Who knew? My sister, Carol, was in charge of that stuff at the mere age of twelve. My dad was overseeing it too, of course, but jeesh, none of this seems real to me, even now, a million years after the fact. That turkey was pulled and plunked in and out of cold water baths to defrost it, but no luck! We had hamburgers for dinner instead! I can only imagine my father's shame. But I do remember the Tozers' laughter, and that was enough to pull us all through.
This year, I'll have 49 guests for Thanksgiving, down from the 55 I originally expected. The ranks are shifting. This kind of event is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. Years ago, I joined my husband's family for Thanksgiving...I think I was about 21 or 22 at the time. His family of 8 (plus me) joined the McGowan tribe of 9 and that was how it all began. By the time I joined them, they'd been performing this feast for about eleven years. Now it's been well over forty!
What I remember most about our huge family feasts is not the food, or the exact conversations I've had. It's the welcoming sound of laughter that reverberates off the ceilings and walls and sticks inside the core of my soul. I know it sounds corny, and I've never told any of them this...but when you start out a tradition of grief and sadness, it's hard for a little kid to recover from that. Their laughter shocked me at first, really! But now, I live for that sound.
So tomorrow, there'll be tables upon tables in my great room. There'll be chafing dishes and platters of food. The fire will be lit, the glasses all full and the house will burst at its seams.
And I...will suck it all in for another year...me that little adoptive daughter from New Jersey, with the two families of my dreams. Honestly, sometimes I do have to pinch myself. The laughter, the love and the being together...that combination can honestly heal anything! And even though I won't be with my own siblings and my parents too, they're never too far from my heart.