You know my favorite part about Thanksgiving? It’s the one holiday that’s never the same twice.
Circumstances change from year to year. Locations alter from year to year. And we are changed. Yet Thanksgiving always comes knocking.
When I was a child, Thanksgiving was about a dinner for which everyone dressed up. My mom wore a pretty apron as she served us food that we only ate at Thanksgiving. It was a special meal. We knew it because the food was served on fancy dinnerware, and we were all in our Sunday best. On a Thursday.
Everyone got special seats at the table. And I’m not talking the kiddie table. For this one meal, we were seated among the adults and expected to act appropriately.
As I got older, the formality left us but the food quantity remained.
Perhaps because as a teenager an attitude of gratitude was not my forte, I considered the meal boring. And heavy. And I rolled my eyes at the thought of everyone coming together for one meal per year. Pointless.
It got more special to me after I had my own family. Then, I saw the point of the traditions. I saw how important it was for generations to join hands and break bread together.
Even though joining in marriage meant hitting two Thanksgiving feasts on a given Thursday in November, it was still good.
As a young mother, I never was asked to bring anything to the table except the babies. I loved not having to cook. I loved not having to serve a meal, or clean up afterward. If the babies cried, I loved that my husband and I could remain seated because younger siblings or older grandparents were ready to lend a helping hand.
My grandparents would tell stories of their youth. My parents would remember their early years of marriage when they had $90 to run the month, and tell us how they managed to save money during those years. My younger siblings would tell about school.
Those were some of my favorite years. And no two years were ever alike.
As our children grew into teenagers, we went once to a dinner in which we were each asked to share something for which we were thankful. My daughter said she was thankful for family, and it made my day. Really, it made my next 365 days.
Over the years, our dinners have changed. As expected.
Older generations have passed away, the younger ones now have families of their own, and we’re telling the stories of our childhood to anyone who will listen.
And now, our family feast is a traveling meal. We drive eight hours to join our son around a table in his one-bedroom apartment.
Driving on Thanksgiving, we pass a lot of houses with driveways packed with cars. We always imagine the good food and better conversation going on there.
Arriving in the afternoon at our destination, we hurry to throw together a Thanksgiving feast for the evening.
The food is always good. The fellowship is even better. It’s a much smaller group than we’ve had in years gone by, but it’s a table filled with love, as always.
Whether you are having a traditional Thanksgiving, or trying something new this year, I hope that it’s a day filled with the stuff of wonderful memories to carry you the rest of your year.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over all my Thanksgivings, it’s that where you eat, or who surrounds your table really isn’t important. It’s the importance you attach to each person that matters. It’s the love you receive and the love that you share that fills your heart at this time of year.
And for that, we should all be thankful.