My hope is that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Because we were in rural Kansas, we missed the biggest part of holiday shopping and Black Friday craziness in stores. Which, in my mind, only means no people crashing into me, short tempers, or standing in line for hours to see an exhausted sales clerk. Of course, there was some shopping on line – the more standard way for many of us since the pandemic.

Most important for us, was the ability and joy of being together for the holiday. I heard from some folks it was the first holiday since the Pandemic started to gather together. What a gift for those of you who were in that situation.

We were together for a week, which meant my father-in-law’s house of three bedrooms and one bathroom, was filled to the brim with people, projects, dishes and board games. I said, “bring it on!”.

There were two major projects that were major parts of the time together. The first was the roofing of the gazebo with cedar tiles. My son-in-law prefers having something to keep him busy so he decided this would be his task for the week. But as usually happens, it took more tiles, more people, and more time than anticipated. Fortunately, the weather was nice which was a gift for those of us on top.

The second project included our cookie contest. This was the first year the grandkids were old enough to be involved. We picked our recipes, baked the cookies, and then ranked them in order of our favorites. The final result was seven cookies to taste test. (My Cranberry Spice Drop cookie came in a solid third place!) Thank heavens for coffee and milk to cut the sweetness. Even most of the kids couldn’t eat all seven all in one sitting. It was great fun, wonderful cookies, and good memories.

  But Holidays Mean Different Things to Each of Us.

Even as I had a week filled with hubbub, laughter, even a few tears, and people I love, I was aware some people had very different experiences. For many, it was just another day, perhaps filled with loneliness, painful reminders of the loss of loved ones, or memories of difficult or painful memories of previous years and holidays. Some spent these holidays filled with sorrow, an empty longing for something missing, or a strong desire for it all to be over and done with.

My childhood was like that . . . a lot of loneliness during holidays. Because my parents were divorced and my father was not in my life, my memories are bittersweet. Due to our money struggles, my mother often worked on holidays in order to get time and a half pay. She started work at 7:00 a.m. so I would wake up to an empty house. If it was Christmas, my stocking would be waiting for me on a chair in the living room. Then, usually my mother had arranged for someone to pick me up and take me to their house and when finished with work, she would join us for the remainder of the day.

They weren’t terrible holidays, but I remember the sense of wistfulness. I wanted it to be my house full of family and welcoming a guest, not always the guest. I think it’s one of the many experiences that made me conscious of those on the edges or outside the circle of belonging.

I definitely know it’s been one of the reasons I invite people who I know will be alone, to join us for a holiday. Our table and house, though small, has always had space to invite one more – even at the last minute. It was an understanding every member of my family knew. So, I was never sure what the final number of people, who might show up, would be.

Funny thing is, no one cared how tight it was around the table or how we bumped into each other when preparing the meal. It was about the communion, gathered through friendship, and connected in a much bigger definition of what it meant to be family.

And so, as I end this post, I hope you found a warm place where you felt joy and a welcome. I also give thanks for my family, friends, and also for you, those of you who are becoming part of my larger family.

. . . this is what I know today.

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