Even as a child, I looked forward to Thanksgiving Day with great anticipation. I was a child who loved traditions, and our Thanksgiving tradition was to load up in the car and head to my mom’s side of the family for a day of food and fun with all of my aunts and uncles, lots of cousins, and of course, Grandma and Grandpa.
Each year, the celebration was at a different aunt or uncle’s home. Regardless of whether we traveled a half hour to Caro or an hour and a half to Beaverton, the destination was sure to provide a crazy and chaotic afternoon and evening together, complete with more food than we could eat, guitar playing cousins, dancing in the basement, cards at the kitchen table, and little girl conversations with the many special cousins I looked forward to seeing each year.
In addition to being sad, I remember being mad. I remember being angry. I was angry that I was not allowed to go to the party. I was angry that I had to lay on that couch while my sisters and brother got to go play with all my cousins. I was angry that I wasn’t going to get some of Grandma Zee’s famous stuffing and no-bake cookies. I was angry I was going to miss out on the little girl conversations with my cousins, and worse yet, that my sisters might get in on some secrets that I wasn’t even going to be able to hear. Yup, for that little girl, the worse Thanksgiving had just arrived and she wasn’t happy about it.
I hadn’t thought about that Thanksgiving in quite a while. But perhaps it is the adjustments that are being made this year’s family gathering that brought the memory back. I find myself this year, as a grown woman, feeling many of those same emotions.
You see, Thanksgiving at the Cramer Home, has been a day I look forward to all year long. Todd and I have the honor of hosting, and I try to create an environment that provides the same type of fun and excitement as the Thanksgiving days I enjoyed as a child. My mom still makes the turkey, and her and dad take the head of the table now, as Grandma and Grandpa. My siblings come home, and bring their children, some young and others married now. Our children come, some now with their own spouses, others bringing a friend from college. We enjoy having “extras” every year, those who aren’t family by blood, but who quickly become family that day. Sometimes it’s foreign exchange students. Other times it’s friends and neighbors who live locally.
We fill the house with about thirty people, and enjoy a great meal, play lots of ping pong, watch football, play board games, watch movies, and still enjoy the “little” girl conversations, as “big” girls now. And one thing we do before we eat each year is gather in a big circle, hold hands, and say a prayer of Thanksgiving. Someone volunteers to begin, and shares something they are thankful for that particular year, and the next person goes, and the next, until everyone has a smile, a giggle, and/or tears coming down their cheeks while we listen to the everyone from the seventy somethings to the three-year-old. To many around the circle, that part of the day is the most treasured. There’s something about looking around that circle at the family you love that speaks volumes, even when we can’t find the right words.
This now brings us to my current state of emotions. Ones that remain similar to the little girl who missed out on the Thanksgiving gathering she was so looking forward to attending. Our family, like many others, will have less people around the table this year. Covid has been all too real to us, as some have gotten it and recovered, others fall into high risk categories and are still fearful of getting it, several have needed to be quarantined, some have lost jobs, the list goes on. It has left its mark in our family, and it doesn’t seem to be leaving any time too soon. My guess is, it has affected your family in some way, as well. I know we all have our stories of inconveniences or sickness or loss of income or mental health concerns, again the list goes on. So, we arrive at this holiday season with decisions to make. And they are far from easy ones. We all do our best in making them, considering what is best for our families. The fact that these decisions need to be made at all, makes me not only sad, but angry. My emotions go back to the little girl who was angry because of what she was missing out on, and yet there was nothing she could do to make it better. Nothing that could change the circumstance and the reality that she was sick. The same goes for our family today. My momma heart breaks, as I won’t have all my children around the table this year. My daughter heart is hurting for what my own mom and dad are missing out on this year. My heart is disappointed and sad because instead of a house filled with thirty something, we will be a house with a handful. But I am reminded that the journey doesn’t end here. The journey doesn’t end with my anger or sadness. It’s alright for me to be angry. It’s alright for me to be sad. But it’s not the end, and I’m not going to sit in it. I’m going to enjoy every second of whatever is.
So, as I, in a sense, mourn the loss of what a “typical” Thanksgiving Day is at the Cramer House, I also can’t help but be filled with gratitude. (I’m excitedly awaiting the arrival of some of my children right now!) We will still create a circle in our living room. We will still go around and share what our blessings have been this year…and there have been many. We will still eat wonderful food. (and my mom said she would deliver turkey and stuffing!) And we will still remember that we serve a gracious God. A God who sent His son to die for us, who because of His resurrection, offers us the biggest blessing of all time, an abundant life on this earth and the promise of eternal life in heaven. For that, we shall always be thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving! May God richly bless you! Whether your family table is filled with many, or with only you and Jesus, may you and your family find peace, joy, and many reasons for THANKSGIVING, as you celebrate this special day.
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