"I wish we had a big family."
That statement comes from one of our mouths every Thanksgiving. There are four of us in our family if you don't include the dog. Three of the grandparents are waiting for us in Heaven and the last to remain here is locked away in his own world of repeating memories that don't always include us. We have cousins in various places, but we never knew each other well. So, when holidays appear, we do our best to include our "other family."
I'm known as the cook, so it only made sense to invite holiday orphans to our house each year. We've hosted close friends who didn't travel, transplanted young families who couldn't go home for turkey and sometimes even set the table for just the four of us. On Thanksgiving afternoons, when it's just us, we' ve made a movie our tradition while others are playing games in rooms full of overstuffed stomachs.
Not this year. This year, we loaded the car and got on the road with all the other holiday travelers. I've heard the complaining about traffic, but I found myself grateful to be on the interstate with all those cars. It made us part of the gang. It meant we had some place to go and people to share with. Our son now lives in Nashville, an easy three hour drive. And, he works retail, so anyone familiar with "Black Friday" knows what that means for him. It was impossible for him to come home for the feast, so we volunteered to take it to him. I cooked all day Tuesday. Wednesday,we packed the cooler with goodies, picked up our daughter after a half-day of work and got on the road. Stopping at McDonald's for a break and a splurge on hot chocolate, I found myself humming Over the River and Through the Woods. I wasn't harried and impatient. I was smiling.
When Josh was hired by Apple to be part of their local sales team, he met some great new friends transplanted from various cities. It seems a few of their families were trekking to Music City for the day as well and at the last minute, the boys suggested we all do turkey together. We had enough food to feed 30 people and recipes from Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Ohio and Kentucky. We included others from the gang who couldn't make it to their hometowns but were part of the family they've established in this groovin' town. They're all young, hip, relaxed and full of laughter. People you'd want to spend time with.
The families meshed together easily. No awkward moments. We all had a common goal - to enjoy Thanksgiving with our kid. The other families had left gatherings of 20+ in order to support one loved adult child far from home. It worked seamlessly. We ate, we sighed, we took pictures outside and then, when the sleepiness settled in from all that turkey, we started the game.
Apples to Apples was the entertainment choice. (How ironic is the name considering their employer?) Any uncomfortable inhibitions were tossed aside and we became a family of sorts. We laughed and made new inside jokes for this thrown together group.
"It's 'TAKING a shower, not TALKING!'
"That baby cry was sooo real!"
"Was there a melody somewhere in that humming?"
Later, we said goodbyes with hugs and promises of meeting again. As I settled into the hotel bed, I was thankful. For a place to celebrate, a kitchen filled with abundance, hugging and laughing with my family and for a special group of Thanksgiving Orphans.