This is my favorite week of the whole year, every year. Since I was a child, I looked forward to Thanksgiving more than any other day. When I was a kid, it was a day that the whole family came together, from far and wide, and gathered at my grandparents' tiny Long Island home. My family would get on the road at 4am so we could be in the kitchen eating Entemann's coffee cake with Grampa while Gramma put the bird in the oven. As we got older (and bigger), we'd all pack around that dining room table, shoulder to shoulder (and sometimes arm over the shoulder of the person next to you -- we're all pretty big folks, uncles and cousins all over 6 feet tall), and laugh and joke and eat. Then we'd all lay around the living room watching football and moaning about our full bellies. These were some of my favorite days, and still top the list of my favorite childhood memories.
Now Thanksgiving is smaller in scope; we've all grown up and grown away from each other. But it's still my favorite day, in a whole new way. I now host the meal at my house, and my immediate family gathers. We all pack into my tiny kitchen, "helping" with the cooking (but mostly tripping on each other), drinking wine and laughing. The menu is always pretty much the same and not terribly exotic, but it's not really the food that makes the day special. It's the time together, the shared memories, the inside jokes that only brothers and sisters understand. It's watching Sweet Boy's eyes pop open when he sees the giant turkey in the middle of the table. It's the smile on my father's face when he sits back and rubs his overstuffed belly. It's the excitement in my husband's voice when he talks about Black Friday shopping with his older sister. It's the buzz in the air about the upcoming Christmas season, planning for our next family get-together. It's the transformation I see in my dad and my husband, from down-to-earth, responsible men into wild-eyed, giddy Santa's helpers. It's the way we all just relax together, if only for an afternoon.
This year I am somewhat overwhelmed with gratitude for my abundant blessings. I sat in church yesterday and teared up more than once as I let it all just soak in. I have a beautiful family and a warm home; we have plenty of food in the pantry; we are healthy. I plan to celebrate those blessings this week, to say thank you out loud and often, because life is so good.