Note: As explained in this post, in honor of me and my wife’s first year of marriage, I’m going to spend the second year posting monthly reflections of the same month a year earlier. This is the fifth installment.
November is always a special month, in my mind, coming between the last lingering sunshine of October and the early touches of deep cold that mark December (in most climates I have lived in, anyway). And it doesn’t hurt that it hosts one of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. Growing up in a family and faith structure that eschewed the traditional Christmas antics, Thanksgiving seem to me to be much more about truly important things in life; a day to spend with family and friends, enjoying a wonderful meal and then sliding into a nice, long weekend (when you don’t do Christmas, well… “Black Friday” is actually just another nice day of vacation).
Sometime in my early 20s, perhaps late in my college career, I actually contemplated what it would be like when that tradition was inevitably broken — I would move away, my sisters would move away, and we would be pulled back together only rarely. I tried to picture hosting Thanksgiving with a small group of friends in an as-yet-unknown city — would it, could it, possibly feel as warm and comfortable? I had my doubts.
But as you remarked to me in the car earlier this month, Holland, in many ways, our relationship really starts with Thanksgiving seven years ago, with a small group of people being hosted by a very good mutual friend, who would later officiate at our wedding. For weeks, he had been nudging me to come for Thanksgiving, since a certain someone (you!) had “allegedly” been asking if I would be there. I did receive another invite that year, from some very wonderful people who are old family friends going back decades, but I wanted to be with a different group of friends, and all of this talk of your alleged questions had me intrigued. So I went, and was disappointed when you weren’t there, but then you showed up after all, and — most mysterious of all — appeared to be very surprised I was there. Slow as I can be at times, I was oblivious to the altogether too-obvious setup happening behind the scenes. But there I was, clutching a bowl of cranberry sauce and a pan of Stovetop stuffing, hoping you would show up, when you breezed in with a bunch of pots and proceeded to take over the already crowded kitchen to make your trademark fried okra. I can still see you in that kitchen, your sleeves rolled up to your elbows, your hair tucked up in a bun, bright and laughing and so wonderfully beautiful that my heart stops just a little when I think about it.
We’ve joked about that night many times since — I made a comment about your striped socks, and you declared you were going to head home early in order to watch a Danish film — and how in many ways, it served as the genesis of our relationship, even though the final push to get us together wouldn’t happen for a few more weeks. We haven’t had a Thanksgiving apart since; the next years found us together with other new friends, including a mini-tradition of dinner and / or dessert with the always awesome Million Ancient Bees, Errant Reader, and Blackberry Eating. Those were very good Thanksgivings, indeed!
Last year, for the first Thanksgiving of our marriage, many of our friends had departed for new places. I remember a little bit of talk about how it would be very different to step away from the brief tradition of seeing these people and sharing the day together. But our Thanksgiving still went on, with the two of us and the friend who had helped start it all years ago, and his wonderful fiancée (who we will share the day with again this year). It was our day, to spend together, to make a part of our own tradition. I no longer think of Thanksgiving as meaningful only because it takes place in the same home with the same people; I take meaning for the day from the fact that we are together, and from the fact that we have so many excellent friends and family members who would welcome us to their tables, and who would be even more welcome at ours. Our first “married” Thanksgiving was evidence of that — a day spent together, preparing to join our friends for a wonderful dinner together, mixing a bit of the old with a bit of the new, and all of it done together.
As this Thanksgiving comes around, I am thankful for each and every one of our most excellent friends and beloved family members — but I am most thankful, Holland, as always, for you. I can’t wait to see how our Thanksgiving continues to evolve through the years together ahead.