This fall has been beautiful. We have had clear, sunny days along with warm temperatures. Except for the sun setting earlier, it seemed like this fall was an extension of summer. Until, of course, the weekend that we were expecting guests. Every fall, my dad’s extended family gets together somewhere. I use that broad term, “somewhere,” because we are scattered all over the country. One year, the family met on the East Coast. The next year, they went to the West Coast. This year, it was time to visit the Midwest.
And of course, the temperatures dropped into the sixties and the rain came. Fortunately, the only thing my family wants to do is be together, talk and play cards, so the rain was just a little thing.
When I was a little girl, we always were together on the day after Thanksgiving. My dad and my uncles were pastors, so they had to work on Thanksgiving morning. My dad would preach at church and then we would get in the car to drive to Detroit, or Ft. Wayne, or Canton, Ohio. Every few years it was our turn, so we didn’t have to travel. One of my mom’s favorite times was Thanksgiving night–the night before the big meal. All my aunts would gather in the kitchen to cook and talk. It was a lot of work to feed all us children; when my little sister was born, that made twenty cousins in all. Our parents had no money to stay in hotels, so we slept on the floor in our cousins’ rooms, in the basement, even once in the church next door. On Friday came the big turkey feast! It was a day late, but it was still Thanksgiving to us.
Many years later, Thanksgiving became complicated. Cousins got married and had children, and there were more and more obligations to fulfill. Now, we have “Pre-Thanksgiving.” It’s like Thanksgiving, but it’s not. The cousins can afford to stay at a hotel and the kids don’t have to sleep on the floor. There is no cooking the night before. This year, I even decided that I was not going to serve turkey. I had the dinner catered with authentic Chicago-style food; Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza, pasta, and Italian beef.
Some of our relatives were missing. Some cousins had to work; some couldn’t travel so far away. We missed my mom and two uncles who have gone to heaven before us. However, a total of forty-one relatives crammed into my kitchen last Saturday. We were together despite the rain outside, despite my husband’s fears that we wouldn’t all fit in our house, despite my ugly bathroom floors. (That’s another story waiting to be told.)
I remember being one of the little cousins and going along with a “show” that we performed for our parents a long, long time ago in a basement in Ft. Wayne. At the very beginning of the festivities his year, my daughters and my cousins’ kids put on a show of their own. They stood on the steps, plucked a toy guitar and sang their hearts out. They were making their own wonderful childhood memories.
It might not have been Thanksgiving, but it was still Thanksgiving to us. We give thanks for the blessings God gave us in family; in good weather and bad, in health and in sickness, with those present and in the hearts of those absent, and we know we are loved.
Oh, and did I mention this, family? While playing cards, I got the best 500 hand in my life! Ten diamonds, baby!
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