Why I’m Grateful This Thanksgiving by
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Don’t remember which grandkid made this

I love Thanksgiving. I love seeing folks I adore gathered around the table. I love taking time to feel grateful for the blessings in my life. I love the lyrics from David Roth’s song, May the Light of Love:

I love Thanksgiving and taking time to feel grateful for the blessings in my life.

As we come around to take our places at the table
A moment to remember and reflect upon our wealth
Here’s to loving friends and family, here’s to being able
To gather here together in good company and health …

May the light of love be shining deep within your spirit
May the torch of mercy clear the path and show the way
May the horn of plenty sound so everyone can hear it
May the light of love be with you every day.

Last year, I wrote about the ultimate pandemic punishment in my post No Turkey Dinner This Year. In it, I shared how this holiday evolved for me from a childhood cousins-fest to family hostess to a version of “to Grandmother’s house we go,” with me in the role of cook and Gramma. I also shared my sadness that COVID-19 had robbed me of one of my favorite holidays:

But this year, the coronavirus has devoured my holiday. We are planning a food exchange with my in-town daughter’s family. I will stuff Cornish hens for the meat-eaters and make pumpkin pie. She will make sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. With masks on, we will exchange the food in disposable containers. Then we will go to our respective homes and eat our meals separately. I know I will be envious of the many folks who will gather with family despite warnings not to do this. They will share their happy holiday pictures on social media. Unfortunately, some of them will also share the COVID-19 they picked up celebrating the holiday I missed.

The pre-pandemic gingerbread house production

A year later, I am truly grateful that some of my family came together to share in a more traditional version of Thanksgiving. My daughters and sons-in-law and some of their children gathered around the table in my new condo. Although we were missing the three grandchildren who joined our family through marriage, our granddaughter who lives in a residential school, and our son and his family, this was a vast improvement over our table for two from 2020.  We stuck a candle in a pie and sang happy birthday to my daughter and grandson. And I felt grateful.

This year’s Thanksgiving birthdays

When I was a preschool director, we used to ask the children what they were thankful for. Their lists were both amusing (some version of my toys) and heartwarming (my family, my teachers, the world, etc.). I decided to try my own list:

I am grateful that …

  • Everyone at my table was vaccinated. Even the nine-year-old had one shot.
    My husband and I were (barely) healthy enough to pull off this meal.
    Some of my grandkids were able to be with some of their cousins, another thing that COVID-19 stole from us.
  • My son-in-law adopted my grandchildren, making him their official father.
    While far from normal, life is better than it was last year.
    Retrospect and my Writers Group have kept me writing.
    We could afford to have a ridiculous variety of food to please carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and plain old fussy eaters.
    For the duration of the meal, my kids and grandkids abandoned their phones and devices and actually talked to us.
    I still had one of my home-baked challah breads in the freezer to serve.
    I felt the love and warmth of being surrounded by at least part of my family.
    My friends have sustained me through this pandemic, both in person and on Zoom.
    Our siblings have stayed in touch despite not being able to see one another except for two rare occasions.
    Despite the aches and pains of aging Boomerdom, my husband and are relatively healthy.

We did get to share what we were thankful for and some of the kiddos rose to the occasion. They were mostly thankful for being together with some of their family and for love. You can’t beat that. I have given up my unrealistic expectations. We didn’t listen to the Anne Hills recording of May the Light of Love. We weren’t all be dressed nicely. We didn’t even all stay at the table together until the meal was done. A few of us made jokes about what we were thankful for instead of sharing gratitude. By the end of the meal, only the adults were left still eating. And then there were the dishes.

The boys made the gingerbread house

Of course, there was far too much food. I took care of the usual turkey, stuffing, challah bread (wrong holiday but my grandkids love it), and pumpkin and apple pies. My son-in-law from Indiana brought his two of his favorites, mashed potatoes and corn. My in-town daughter is a vegetarian, so she made cranberries, roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, and kiddy food. That’s right, separate dishes for my grandkids because half of them won’t touch the traditional Thanksgiving fare. The table and kitchen were totally covered with food. I guess everyone had something they liked, although I could swear one of my grandsons didn’t eat anything but a few pieces of turkey. It was hard to say in all of the chaos. I was so happy just being with them that I realized the food didn’t matter. The greatest meal I ever have is any time I break bread with my family.

Thanksgiving Challah

 

The kids take a soak in the hot tub

There was a sad ending to the evening that brought all of us back to the reality that life is far from normal. The plan was to bring my granddaughter who lives in a residential school in Wisconsin home Friday to enjoy the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend. At 8:30 while we were all having a great visit and the grandkids were happily amusing themselves playing an inappropriate card game, my daughter got a call. One of the staff members who comes into close contact with Tessa had COVID-19. Now she and the rest of the girls on her unit were in quarantine. There would be no trip to Grandmother’s house for her once again this year. And this just in: A new variant with an unusual number of mutations, omicron, has just emerged in South Africa. Yes, we are still living in the shadow of this pandemic.

I guess I have to be grateful for what we had this year, despite missing Tessa, our grandkids who were with their mother’s side of the family this year, and our son’s family in Boston. If you want to indulge one of my Thanksgiving fantasies, check out the Anne Hills/David Roth version of May the Light of Love:

 

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, right on!

Comments

  1. Khati Hendry says:

    You really captured the mix of life, the wonder and joy of getting together with friends and family, the mundane details and disappointments overshadowed by the appreciation. I’m sure your family will have good memories from Gramma’s house. And I loved the Turkey picture with the thankful feathers.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    You are right, Laurie, things aren’t back to normal, but at least groups of family members could gather, you had an abundance of food (to meet the various tastes and requirements around your table) and it sounds like you all enjoyed being together. That’s a lot to be grateful for.

    I am so sorry that your granddaughter in WI couldn’t join. COVID is still with us and Omicron is worrisome. But we’ll take each day as it comes and enjoy it. At least you got to have this day with your family.

  3. Indeed you have a much to be grateful for Laurie. Next year may the rest of your wonderful family gather around your table!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Or maybe someone else’s table (LOL). I’m still in recovery mode and didn’t think about how it would be to put this production together in a new and smaller place with a different kitchen. And what ever happened to my turkey baster?

  4. John Shutkin says:

    Beautiful, and ultimately bittersweet thoughts of thankfulness from this year and the past, Laurie. So thank YOU for sharing them with us. Having just had some lovely family meals in the last week — including with my older daughter last weekend — I can so agree with your perfect sentence: “The greatest meal I ever have is any time I break bread with my family.”

    Now I need to listen to “May the Light of Love.”

  5. Thanks, Laurie, for such a rich mixture of past and present, cheer and sadness. Life under covid, regardless of the progress we’ve made, still holds all of us, but your post demonstrates the ingenuity and joy that insists on bringing friends and family together!

  6. Marian says:

    This was pitch-perfect, Laurie. We, too, had somewhat of a “reduced” Thanksgiving, but those of us at Dick’s daughter’s home were so grateful that we were healthy and safe enough to gather, and the younger generation took over most of the cooking so that I could concentrate on the long drive. Worked out great, and I hope the feeling lasts for all of us.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      We need to hold on to those moments of normalcy and happiness as we ride the roller coster of this pandemic. Perhaps life will never be “normal” again, but I’m trying to be grateful for those moments that are.

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