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‘Together in spirit’ for holiday

Today I’m planning for Thanksgiving, deciding on the menu for the meal I’ll cook for the people I love. The turkey, the dressing, string bean casserole and sweet potatoes are already cooking in my mind.

In the background of the bustle of my kitchen, I hear the sound of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the music from the bands and the descriptions of the floats passing by for viewing. I imagine the warmth from the stove mingling with the cold air outside causing my kitchen window to fog. And oh the fragrances drifting through my house are delicious.

Tomorrow morning as I measure, mix, stir and check on the turkey, I’ll let my mind wander back to all the Thanksgivings I’ve lived to this point in time. I’ll be back in my grandmother’s kitchen surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins. There is laughter and there are hugs as each new bunch of relatives arrive. In the midst of it all I see my grandmother, mother’s mother, rushing around making sure everything is ready. My grandfather sits beside the heater waiting while the women set the food in place. Finally we come together; heads bow as my uncle voices a prayer of thanks.

It is a good memory and it fills me with joy as I see the faces of those who are so much a part of me and my experience. In the blink of an eye, the scene changes like the curtain rising on another act in this play called my Thanksgiving memories. The setting is a kitchen in a different grandmother’s house. My father’s mother takes center stage, setting everything in place for the meal we share with her. There aren’t as many people at this celebration, just my aunt, my father’s only sister, and her three children. The numbers are smaller, but the spirit is the same, the sense of family coming together just as strong. We join in a prayer of gratitude before we enjoy the gift of delicious food my grandmother offers us.

Once more I feel joy as I remember the dear ones sitting around that table, the father, the aunt and the grandmother who no longer live among us. Still another scene appears. I am in the kitchen preparing a dish to take to my mother’s. I have my own children and my mother is the grandmother inviting us to her house for Thanksgiving. My father sits at the head of the table and we hear his familiar prayer, “Lord bless us, and make us humble and truly thankful …” And then the curtain goes up on the kitchen in my mother-in-law’s house. My children return to celebrate, bringing babies with them. My husband’s mother welcomes every one with an engulfing hug. The sun sparkles on the lake as we offer thanks for the meal she serves. There is talking, laughing and sighs of satisfaction as we sit together enjoying the food and fellowship.

This year the holiday celebration is simpler, smaller. I cook for my husband, my daughter and my husband’s parents. My other children are scattered and have their own meals planned. The extended family of my childhood no longer has the anchor of a gathering place for holiday now that my grandparents are gone. Still, it doesn’t matter if we are in one place or separated by miles, we are together in spirit, united by our memories. Perhaps that is the gift of this holiday and why I feel peaceful and so blessed as I prepare to celebrate another Thanksgiving.