Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. As a kid, I'm sure initially because it marked the halfway point of the endless marathon of time between Halloween and Christmas, but even as I aged out of the Santa system it remained something special. Growing up we were always with one of my parents' families and both were a treat in their own ways: my mom's family's gatherings were relaxed and filled with lots of cousins and cribbage games and grown ups drinking and telling jokes we didn't understand but laughed at anyway because we were drunk on our Cokes and giddy about anything that smacked of Inappropriate for Children. My father's family was much more formal; even the drinks had sophisticated names like Old Fashioned and Manhattan and Rob Roy. My Nana wore perfume and jewels vs. the apron and orthopedics of my Grandma; there were far fewer cousins and no chaos to be had. It was just a different world entirely and I loved pretending we belonged in it, even for an evening.
I went to college, my parents divorced, my cousins grew up and grandparents passed away. Thanksgivings became smaller affairs and I spent some with family or just as often with friends, boyfriends or working, but still always holding on to the feeling that this day had deep meaning and trying always to find my gratitude. The first Thanksgiving of our marriage my husband and I were living in Hungary where, much to my homesick dismay, life went on as usual on the fourth Thursday in November. On the fourth Saturday, however, we hosted 40 Hungarians and 4 Americans--cooking dinner on a 2 burner stove in a kitchen with no sink--for a traditional Thanksgiving turkey (that was delivered with the head attached, since the local farmer assumed I wanted the whole bird. To this day, I am as thankful for Butterball as I am for pretty much anything in my life). There were our "Orphan Thanksgivings" in California, that grew from 6 of us the first year (and the slight case of salmonella that really colored our thoughts about the meal in the days afterward), to almost 60 the last year we were there; we set tables up in the garage and down the driveway because we had no other room. There were the three Thanksgivings in a row that each saw another one of our children join our family and the last 2 without our dads. Every Thanksgiving truly causes me to reflect on all those I've been lucky enough to share this day with over the years and all that we have, what's been lost, and is yet to come. And yes, I feel incredibly thankful.