Olivia Newport Thanksgiving

I missed this particular Thanksgiving, but the hats seem to resurface every year …

If all goes according to plan, on the day after tomorrow I will get on a plane with my daughter and fly from Colorado to Chicago, where we will spend Thanksgiving with a boatload of four generations we are related to. For a long time now this has been the primary extended family gathering.

And my daughter and I will leave behind the other half of our own nuclear family. The guys have jobs tied to retail industries and likely will both have a long, tedious Black Friday.

You might think that the obvious choice is that if we can’t all go to the larger Thanksgiving celebration, then we should all stay home and have Thanksgiving together.

It’s just not that simple.

My family of origin has been rattled in the last year. If you want to know more about that, you can go here and here to read about it. The short version is that one of my brothers died. None of us knew that last Thanksgiving would be the final time all seven siblings were together. My heart wants to be there as we assemble again, minus one.

My mother, who has been both wise and witty, is approaching 88. Though her sense of humor is intact, her memory is not. Will this be the last year she’s fully aware of the family gathering? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. If it is, I don’t want to miss it.

Because of my daughter’s work and college schedule in the last few years, she has not been to a family Thanksgiving since high school. Neither has my son, but he saw the extended family at my brother’s funeral when my daughter couldn’t get away. She wants to see her grandmother and not wish later that she had gone when she had the chance.

So two of us are traveling, and two of us are sucking up the reality of a culture that can’t stop shopping for a long weekend. My list of things I’m grateful for this year includes friends who will take in my husband and son and give them a turkey dinner with all the trimmings and some borrowed family love.

People have all sorts of feelings about Thanksgiving, and it’s not all of the Hallmark variety. Holidays can be as deeply painful as they are deeply rich. Whatever your circumstances are this year, I pray you find peace in giving yourself over to the pursuit of joy and love in your life.