This week the whole family gathered at my house to celebrate the first truly American holiday: Thanksgiving. My house overflowed with siblings, nieces, nephews, and my mom and dad. We measured the three oldest male cousins against their annual ladder of growth marks on the wall. Once again, they have grown taller and more mature. I’m sure it was just yesterday that these three were hitting each other over the head with croquet mallets and chasing each other with fire-sticks from the yearly campfires. Now they tower over all but their dads, entertain themselves with less violent pursuits and even ask what they can do to help.
I fretted for a week before everyone came. How would I get everything done? There was shopping to finish, beds to strip, floors to polish, furniture to dust, kitchen cabinets to clean, a stove to scrub. The list felt endless, but then I remembered: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Each day I concentrated only on what needed to be done before dark. That, plus help from the young man who occasionally comes to clean for me, calmed my anxieties. Although I’ve always been sure that the hostess gene skipped me, I was able to figure out menus for each day, satisfactory sleeping arrangements for fourteen people, entertainment for the younger ones, and how to get the turkey cooked perfectly.
The week was full of laughter and some happy tears. There was singing and games and stories retold. There were walks and rocks for splashing and a hammock for swinging wildly under the tree. We gathered evergreens on Friday and the children made wreaths then, on Saturday, my sister and I decorated my front gate for Christmas. There were Christmas presents passed from car to car and some left behind to be opened in a month. There was even a birthday cake.
Joe says the whole family came, ate everything in sight and left. But, he was laughing as he said it. The yearly pilgrimage to the farm is a treasured tradition for us. I went in early one morning and curled up in bed with my mom. She asked me if getting ready had been too overwhelming. If she had asked me two weeks before everyone arrived, I might have said, “yes.” But, as soon as my nephew started strumming his guitar for me, as soon as my two nieces begged for homemade grape-juice, “the kind with the grapes still floating in it,” as soon as all of us joined hands around the table, it was more than worth it. The family bonds that we rebuild each year are precious. Oh, and how did I cook that perfect turkey? I didn't. My brother-in-law cooked it for me.