That Thanksgiving looked and tasted different, its colors muted and holiday food a bit bland. I still cooked cornbread dressing and apple brown sugar sweet potatoes because if my husband couldn’t be home with us, the “right” food dang well would be. The kids and I ate turkey with friends and I told the kids we wouldn’t let our hearts slam shut to new good memories, even if they didn’t look exactly like we would have picked.
Somewhere between the turkey dinner and pumpkin pie, I asked my friend’s husband Mark if he would mind helping me pull down the heavier Christmas decorations, and of course he said he didn’t mind at all. So on the following weekend he did exactly that and the kids and I decorated our hearts out while singing the familiar Christmas tunes of Harry Connick, Jr. and the Boston Pops Orchestra.
Because when you’re missing the one you love for the holidays, it helps to fill the empty places with familiar sights and sounds.
Unlike a lot of military folks, my husband has been home for more holidays than gone. But we have spent too many to count away from extended family. Memories of our first Thanksgiving together are a mixed bag of hankerings for home and A+ efforts for a party of two. I was the brand new wife who could barely boil water, and I was bent on cooking one grand Thanksgiving meal that would reverse all my previous cooking failures. So with one hand on Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and the other holding the phone to ask my mama another question, I managed to make one halfway decent meal, even if it wasn’t ready ’til 9pm Thanksgiving night.
Because when you’re missing the ones you love for the holidays, the hunger for their closeness eases when you fill up on familiar tastes and treats.
And then there are those holidays piled-high like mashed potatoes in the wide brimmed bowl, those spent with family away from family–friends who couldn’t go home, either. The plane fare was too expensive, the weather too tricky, and the work schedules too demanding. So we circled our wagons and brought whatever said “home” for us to our community table.
Because when you’re missing the ones you love for the holidays, it helps to blend your own favorites and their favorites into new favorites.
If this holiday season finds you wishing you could look across the table and see those who aren’t there, know that it’s okay to lament their absence. Know it’s okay to long for them more than your grandma’s homemade pecan pie. But also know that while your loved ones may be away, the goodness of God is not. Keep your heart open for His miraculous gifts, His just-try-it recipes for different but good tasting memories. Give Him a thanks offering for who and what is at the table–even if it’s a small table holding you and a turkey dinner for one. Your celebration may not look exactly like you hoped or planned, but it may have a glorious beauty all its own.
Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. May it be full of all kinds of lovin’ and good things from the oven. I am thankful for you!