It's not about the food

The fog shrouds the trees as if the river is exhaling its final breath. Summer is gone. Fall lingers but is fleeting. Skeletal trees begin to tell the tale of the winter ahead. I have to be honest, I really do not like a Michigan winter. It is the price we Michiganders pay for the beauty of our state in all other seasons.

Many of you have come to peace with it, even go out and snowmobile and ice fish, pretending to love these harsh conditions. Maybe you really do.

It is no secret that my daughters, both grown and independent, live far away. We will not be together until Christmas. It makes for bittersweet holidays. Reminiscing about them this morning as I am putting photos away, I am reminded of Thanksgivings when I wasn't so thankful. That after I had finished the chaos of three nights of parent/teacher conferences, there was always the sinking feeling of seeing my in-law's car in my driveway on Thanksgiving Eve. Trying to feel welcoming as I returned late in the evening, burnt out and exhausted. There was the Thanksgiving when Chelsea had the chickenpox and she and I stayed home while her dad and Alyssa went to Aunt Carla’s in Chicago. Unable to go anywhere, we watched the parade on television and sang the turkey song over the phone to those gathered around the feast.

There were many epicurean triumphs and more than a few mistakes.

But we could have been eating cardboard.

If anything, Thanksgiving delivers, it is the feeling of being a member of a bigger body of people.

My tribe.

Warriors together, sometimes with each other, we are ever loving and aware that no matter what happens, someone has your back. It is the affirmation of family.

Some folks aren’t so lucky. Holidays can morph in unexpected ways. Marriages and divorces bring people in and take them away. Family feuds, deaths, taking turns on whose side to go to, they all take a toll. In my case, it is distance and the price of airfare, and the cost of vacation days and PTO.

No one prepares you for a sparse Thanksgiving. No one says you may have to suck it up with a Friendsgiving or maybe you don’t get a spot at all.

My life has had more changes than most. Some good. Some bad. One thing I was always proud of, is that when my girls were younger, we always invited people without a spot to come into our fold. There was always an extra place set and it was always filled. Not that we dragged people off the street every year, but a few years this actually did happen.

No one can replace the feeling of belonging. Loneliness is often more difficult at this time of year. Before you post your wonderful memories on social media, do something that no one else will see. Reach out to a new neighbor or co-worker that may have no place to go. Invite them into your house.

My memories will be enough until Christmas rolls around. I delight in the thoughts of years gone by. The funny things like the year my grandmother burned her bread and wouldn’t get out of the car, or the time I dropped the turkey when the platter cracked in half, or the plays put on by cousins who had no clue what a cell phone was. This year, I will need to accept what is.

Whether you have little or much, embrace your tribe or seek out someone else’s. Spend the day in mindful gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving.

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