I am in my happy place this time of the year, pushing a cart through Trader Joe’s.The aisles are just crowded enough, the shelves just full enough, the check out lines still short enough to remind me why I love Thanksgiving.
Who can resist the whiff of cinnamon from the bags of scented pine cones, the mounds of plump turkeys ready and waiting to be popped into the oven, the stalks of brussels sprouts standing sentry, the sweet potatoes piled on high? And the crush of shoppers like me in their festive holiday garb filling their carts.
And then my phone rings, and it is my sister, and just like that I am back at my parents’ home, my kids tumbling out of the station wagon and running excitedly to the door. The girls in matching patchwork dresses and patent Mary Janes, the littlest sister and the little guy in holiday best. The bird is in the oven, its scent wafting through the house, the sides on the stove, the pies on the counter, apple with the melt in your mouth crust I’ve never been able to master, the sweet filling oozing from its top, and pumpkin for the holiday purists. And the cookies – one of each grandchild’s favorite ready to be gobbled down, even before dinner.
And I can see us all, sibs and spouses, the little ones and maybe even a dog or two, posing in front of the fireplace. My dad with that shy smile, his unspoken pride in his brood and his intense pleasure in being together. My mom, taking a few minutes from shuttling from stove to oven to table, and back again, to wipe her hands and smile.
I hear my sister’s voice, and it all comes back to me, like the blurry Kodak instamatic photo that is hiding somewhere in some box in the garage that captured the moment.
And one moment remembered sparks another, our move to Arizona, and Thanksgiving, Southwest style. Roasting my first turkey and making my mother’s cranberry bread. Adding jalepenos to the corn muffins, and sipping warm mugs of soup on the patio while winter blusters in back East. Our holiday expanding as our family of friends grows, always room for one or two more around the table, and an extra sous chef or two or three in the kitchen.
And then the next generation takes on the annual fall rite, the moveable feast now on the East coast, my daughter now doing the planning and shopping and cooking, her sibs traveling from far and near, the familiar Thanksgiving scents coming from her kitchen and welcoming the family home.
And here, a quiet day before heading cross country to see the kids and grands, an early morning Turkey Trot, a picnic in the park with all the traditional fixings, a walk with the dog, and then maybe a movie before settling in by the fire.
Life changes, but some things remain the same. The two of us, Howie and me, who started out as just kids and made a family, who watched it grow into a clutch of strong, accomplished, independent children and their equally strong, accomplished, independent offspring. Who sit back and watch as they make their way just as we did, as they make their lives, and their holidays, and to smile just like my dad.
I am grateful, so grateful, for all we’ve been given, for the good fortune to meet and marry, to make a life together, to know the blessings of children and grandchildren and the joy in their abiding presence. And for the memories that continue to be made that make a family a family.
And for that. I am thankful, oh so thankful.