I’ve written before about being grateful each day for life, and today is no exception.
Along with families across the country, we gathered to cook turkey and the trimmings, eat and drink more than we should have and generally express appreciation at being alive and with each other.
For Mom, who flew in from Boston on Tuesday, it was having a new hip and a working heart thanks to the insertion last May of a pacemaker.
For Ava, it was “waking up not dead.”
For Dunreith, it was being able to sit around the table and soak in the joy of each other’s company.
And for me it was sitting there with my wife, our son who is back from college and finding his way in the world, my mother, who’s lived a quarter century longer than it looked like she would when the car she was in slid into the path of an oncoming car with a snow plough on the front, and Ava, our friend, teacher, sprite and general source of life wisdom whose survival during World War II by pretending for four years that she was deaf and mute was only one, but far from the only, chapter in a remarkable life.
Although we were physically in the room, others were with us, too.
We served the food on dishes, relaxed on chairs and sat at the table that all had been passed from grandparents to my mother to us.
I received a lovely email from my former sixth grader teacher, Nona Bock. More than 35 years after I was a student in her class, she reached out to see how we were doing and affirm our connection.
And we talked to Dunreith’s brother Shaun late in the day, who had just returned with his three kids from spending the day with their cousin Pam and her family in Wilton.
Then there were the people who are no longer here.
We also felt Dunreith’s parents Helen and Marty, both of whom passed on in the past year and a half.
I tried to make stuffing the way Helen taught me, by cutting each chestnut in a X, roasting them and peeling them by hand before combining them with celery, onions and gluten-free bread and pushing it deep into the cavity of the bird.
This is the first holiday season without her, and the wound for me is still fresh. Much as we remember her and honor her memory and all that she gave us, it’s still hard that she and Marty are not here with us in person.
We had done some prep work last night, so the preparations were comparatively stress free.
We started feasting by 2:45 and were happily feeling the tryptophan drowsiness by 5:15-at which point we had seen a fashion show in which Dunreith tried on sweaters Mom had brought for her, heard about Ava’s entry into a Hades-like cave in New Zealand and gobbled down plenty of pie.
After driving Mom to her hotel and Ava back to her home, Dunreith and I headed back to face the mountain of dishes.
I don’t know about you, but we’re at the point when the proverbial torch of providing and raising the children and hosting the holidays and caring for and honoring those who brought us up has been passed.
We’re holding on it. Firmly.
Aware of life’s finitude and deeply grateful for its gifts, I savored a lot of today’s tastes, touches and smells. Even the burps that issue up from within me are reminders of the bounty in food and family that it is my great and good fortune to experience.
I hope your day was full and rich, too.