One more Thanksgiving…a sentimental journey of love and loss

BLESSINGS

For as long as I can remember, at the end of every Thanksgiving past, my silent prayer was “do it again” asking God for one more time with my family around the dining room table in the house where I grew up.

Thanksgiving in Yonkers — my favorite holiday full of good spirits, festive foods and sometimes lots of laughter from a little too much wine. Pumpkin pie piled high with whipped cream. And invisible threads of love tethering one generation to the next. 

With giddy anticipation I’d drive the twisty turning Taconic Parkway over the reservoir and through the woods to get back to the place where I began, stirring memories of  Thanksgivings and loved ones now passed, but never farther away than our hearts.

“Nothing lasts forever,” I can hear my paternal grandfather — the man who helped raise me — say as if he was in the next room not the next world. 

His pronouncements proved true when his beloved wife of 39 years passed from life after a short illness, but I still see her in her kitchen mashing rutabaga with butter and salt and pepper, a Thanksgiving tradition that I carry on. She was the first of her generation to leave and there was not one dry eye in the family. Her loss at age 9 hit me hard and was followed two years later by my parent’s divorce. And our circle grew smaller. 

But I grew up and married and had babies and soon the circle was growing again.

ME and KIDS

Now it was my sons and their cousins sitting on telephone books and stuffing themselves full with mashed potatoes with corn mixed in like I always did when I was a little girl. And all our plates swimming in mom’s homemade gravy. But then my marriage ended and the circle shrank and my boys shared Thanksgiving with me and my family only every other year.

But babies grow up fast, don’t they? Right under our noses and before we can kiss their sleepy faces one more time as we tuck them in at night all the days of diapers and early morning feedings and picking up Legos and wiping sticky hands and reminding them to keep their elbows off the table are gone. So big and so brave now, forging lives of their own. Some living far away, others working the holiday, or visiting in-laws, traveling, or establishing new rituals as young husbands and wives carve out their own family identity. 

Did I know two years ago, when I walked inside my mother’s kitchen door and was greeted with the tantalizing aroma of turkey roasting slowly and the windows fogging and my mother’s face tinged pink like her apron, that it would be the last Thanksgiving dinner around that old dining room table? 

With no one to really cook for she and my sister share Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant where my youngest niece works. My Michael and I, deploring the crush and rush of city roads and public eateries on holidays, opt out of joining them. But at a party the week before Thanksgiving my mom and I lament the loss of this beloved Thanksgiving tradition while we simultaneously rejoice over birthday number two for one member of the next generation of little faces around a table.

EASTON 2

“I’m so glad we had all those years together, when my grandchildren were little,” my mother muses. “And I’m so happy we have all those good memories.”

I tell her so am I and hug her tight clutching wisps of long ago to my heart while embracing the new that is different and can sometimes seem a little less if I choose to look at it that way.

I will miss watching the parade at my Mom’s, but this year I’ll stay in my pajamas all morning while cartoon characters float by Macy’s and high school bands march their hearts out in Herald Square. And for breakfast we’ll eat slices of the old world style lekvar torte that my mother always made, but now I’ll bake it gluten and sugar free, using a bit of honey instead.

I won’t walk around my old city neighborhood with memories bittersweet, but my Michael and I, companions in life, love, and the hiking trail, will stroll in a nearby park after sharing a roast turkey dinner for two.

TNX FOR TWO

HIKE

YONKERS

And life keeps flowing in directions ever new, past and present mingling like friends at a cocktail party and all of it overlapping and swirling. We women hold memories and dreams as near as those precious babes that once nursed at our breast. Yesterday is but a breath away and it is only a thin veil that separates us from those we love and the times we once shared together.

So I put my hand over my heart and close my eyes and tell my Father thank you for all the many gifts in my life past and present, as well as the raindrop blessings that brought tears and heart ache but chiseled the stone of my heart so that it could beat more like His own.

Then nothing lasts forever strikes too close for comfort.

On a bleak and barren day just three weeks ago, a cousin of mine — beloved son, brother and uncle still so young — left us without warning. The aftershock reverberates. And a table in Connecticut will hold a place for the one that has gone seemingly too soon, but only God knows the timing of such things.

Life, so very fragile and transitory this side of heaven, must be handled gently, lived kindly, and loved deeply with forgiveness and grace overflowing. A holy gift, it is meant to be savored not squandered without a second thought.

And I wonder, in the letting go of so much in this life on earth —  whether from death, divorce, distance, disagreements or just new directions as seasons change —  do we gain a deeper, richer understanding and a more sincere appreciation of all we have and hold and shouldn’t for one New York minute take for granted?

I hope so!

Sheila Signature Reduced

My Michael and I wish you and yours a Thanksgiving to treasure filled with gratitude to God for all the dear souls entrusted to our hearts, and for the many, many blessings we Americans claim everyday as our birthright but which so many the world over may never know. May we be truly thankful today and every day. #CountYourBlessings

THANKS

My previous posts about Thanksgiving:

Like broken bread

Ghosts of Thanksgiving past

My fav pumpkin pie recipe and other stuff to be thankful for

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “One more Thanksgiving…a sentimental journey of love and loss

  1. We, empty-nesters, are in a season of change and for that perhaps nostalgic for the sweet days of family nestled around a big table at Thanksgiving. I get you, Sheila! I so get where your heart is, my friend and I join you in wondering “Where have the years gone??!” I will hold tightly to the moments now with prayers of thanksgiving on my tongue, knowing I must hold loosely to my children as they blossom into young men with families of their own. Time is precious! I will make it count! Thanks for the beautiful reminder to do so.

    • Each day we have a choice…to live in the gift of the present or lose the gift by clinging to the past. We may never forget what was but we must move forward. Thanks, Tresta. Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

  2. Best thing I’ve read in a looooooong time, my friend. I visit often but do not comment much.
    Absolutely loved the images, the memories the pics….upstate NY is special to us as well…… the ADKS, etc. I know well the Taconic and etc.

    Your family–I feel I know them!

    Thank you for this. Your writing really touched me today Sheila.
    Sharing/pinning.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    xoxoxox

    • Hi Chris — So nice to hear from you. And I am like you, visiting often, enjoying your pics, delighting in your family, yet not commenting. Glad you liked the post and thanks so much for sharing it. Hope you and yours had a great Thanksgiving and blessings of joy on you Christmas. Thanks much!! HUGS xxoo

  3. Yes life is fragile and its wonderful to carry on passed down traditions. Thank you for sharing, and also the lovely photo’s with your story. Thanksgiving is a special time. We don’t have it in Australia (Oz) as yet, but I did enjoy it when I spent 3 years in TN with my American hubby. So on this Thanksgiving we went out for a nice meal. We don’t eat out a lot, so it was special. God Bless you all.

    • Traditions are wonderful so long as we don’t demand too much from them once their time is over 🙂 Glad you and your ex-pat hubby enjoyed Thanksgiving out. Blessings and hugs and thanks so much for adding your thoughts from Down Under!

  4. Time marches on, and many things are only sweet memories and we can’t go back. Although we celebrate a special day to give thanks, we must continue to be grateful each and every day for God’s blessings. I am sorry for the loss of your cousin. I recently lost my sister to cancer. And God was gracious to spare my granddaughter and her husband when their car was hit by a semi-truck. Shari’s leg was broken, spine injury, right arm in several pieces and elbow shattered, but she is alive and home recovering. her husband has a broken arm and bruises. They are in a different State so we can’t go there, but my (foster) daughter Nancy is with them. Keep being thankful for another day and for love that reaches out to each other. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

    • Thank you, Hazel. And I am sorry for your loss, but so overjoyed to hear your granddaughter and family are safe even if injured. Praising God with you and holding the moments of now gratefully…Hugs!