Missing people: not this year

Label me sentimental if you like. This year is the first Thanksgiving in many that we were with my family for Thanksgiving Day. It’s the first one where we were in the table pictures—the ones that try to squeeze in all the family around a long table.

Living over 4,000 miles away, it was impossible for us to be included.

Most Thanksgivings, even with the empty nest, we spent with at least one other person, but there have been a few Thanksgivings when my husband and I celebrated all by ourselves, just the two of us. We made special foods and enjoyed being together, but Thanksgiving is simply not the same without family.

I grew up going every Thanksgiving to my grandfather’s home in the middle of nowhere. It’s a two-story farmhouse surrounded by porches, on a two-hundred-acre spread. My aunts and mother would take enough food for several armies, and they would labor over the gas stove to bring us the most amazing Thanksgiving fare, beyond most people’s wildest dreams. Over the weekend, we would eat and talk and eat and talk. Insert a lot of laughter, and you can imagine.

We children would play outside and read inside. Field & Stream and old Reader’s Digests abounded. I always took several books of my own.

Thanksgivings meant playing football in the cow pasture and Hide and Seek with our cousins. My great aunt made homemade bread and butter, sausage gravy over homemade biscuits and much, much more. Pies, cakes, frog-eye salad, real mincemeat (venison)….

The men went hunting, and the rest of us just enjoyed the company. Sometimes, neighbors would stop in for visits, and usually we’d attend the little country church where my parents were married “up the road.”

We gave thanks for Thanksgiving down deep in our souls. It was family time and free time—to do whatever we wanted, roam wherever we wanted. Thanksgivings were wonderful.

In 1984, our little family of three moved to Spain. Our co-workers celebrated Thanksgivings with us, many times inviting friends. One memorable Thanksgiving, we invited American basketball players to join us. Two of them were 6’11” tall, and one of the ladies was well over 6 feet. I will never forget them, as they became good friends.

But, the Thanksgiving weekends of my youth were gone. You simply cannot experience a weekend like that in an apartment in Spain.

Years passed, and we did our best to always enjoy Thanksgivings with our children. I am not sure they liked the pumpkin pies, but we made them.

After the children left home, we received photos of parents, siblings, their children and grandchildren around the table. The only ones missing were us—always us. I confess I shed a few tears every year. How I wanted to be in those photos, with those people.

This year, we weren’t missing.

We were with our family, enjoying the traditional foods of the season–and, there was an extra Thanksgiving vibe in our hearts.