For the last several years, my wife has spent Thanksgiving with her family; I would drop by long enough to have a quick meal and visit but then go home and spend most of the day alone.
This year, however, will be very different. My wife’s mom died just one week prior to Thanksgiving and there won’t be a large family gathering at my childhood home or at my in-law’s home.
There will be far fewer settings on the table this year; it will be only my wife and me and most of the food will be take-out. There will be no loud boisterous behavior. The smells and tastes will be different. There will be no children running around; they now have been replaced by dogs!
Until my mother’s death, holidays spent in our family home were loud, chaotic, and crowded—at times with more than 40 family and friends of different ages gathered in laughter and frivolity. Up to 10 adults would be seated at my mother’s formal dining table under that shiny brass chandelier. At least one other table would be set in the adjacent formal living room for the children and those who were unable to secure a seat at the dining room table. Others would sit in my mother’s kitchen at the family table.
Those cherished memories are what many of us long for during the holidays but for most those memories can never be replicated. Many of the characters are no longer with us—deaths, divorces, and other incidents have a way of permanently changing the settings.
Relationships change over the years, some for the better and some for the worse. However, the holidays return each year and consequently can bring renewed relationships and experiences.
We can never turn back the hands of time to earlier days but with open minds and open hearts we can continue to make new memories based on new or renewed relationships. These new memories cannot replace the memories of our childhoods, nor should they. They do, however, create new chapters in our lives and become future memories.
Enjoy the holidays in whatever setting you desire, make the most of what we have and be thankful for the opportunities.
*An earlier version of this was published in 2018.