Some years ago, when the children who are now as tall as I
am were still small, we established a family routine of sharing “thankful
things” around the dinner table. In part, this was a replacement for saying
grace, which my family did when I was a child. But really it is more an act of
focusing, even for a few minutes, on some of the good things in our lives, no
matter what kind of day we’ve all had.
Some evenings it is easy to spout off a list of thankful things. Others, of course, this practice is more challenging. On this week of traditional thanks-giving, near the end of a year that has been challenging in many ways, it seems more important than ever to focus, even for a little while, on the good things.
We’ve all adjusted, to varying degrees, to the shifting normal. I no longer forget to don my mask when I head into the post office (although it still feels a little odd). My kids have grown used to longer class periods in school and lunchtime spent six feet away from friends. Last weekend, my family celebrated my dad’s birthday with a woods walk and hot cider sipped around a fire, rather than a sit-down dinner and cake with candles. (I do wonder if I’ll ever again be comfortable eating birthday cake after the guest of honor has blown across it to extinguish candle flames.)
But holidays are different, and I think many of us are
feeling a tinge of sadness at traditions set aside, for now, as we head into
the first of a string of holidays that normally brighten a literally dark time
My crew is lucky to live within a few miles of lots of extended family. My kids have grandparents around each corner, aunts and uncles down the road, and a cousin across the street. Normally, holidays are a time for blending the local McPhaul and McCarthy branches of the family, with the odd additional out-of-town guest or local friend adopted for the day – and the feast. Our average holiday dinner guest list is usually between 12 and 20, generally tilting toward the higher end.
Our normal gathering place for this particular holiday is my
in-laws’ house, which we can reach – literally – by walking over the river (a
brook, really) and through the woods. This year, though, along with most other
folks, we’ll be marking Thanksgiving in our own homes, without any large
I bought a Thanksgiving turkey over the weekend for the first time – ever. The kids and I sat down about a week before Thanksgiving to plan out our own dinner-for-five menu. The main event, of course, is the bird. But also included are Gaga’s famous sticky rolls and a dish my kids call “glop,” along with Nana’s Swedish apple pie. While the setting and the company will shift, my kids insist the menu should stay as close to “normal” as possible.
One tradition we’ll maintain, especially on this day of thanks-giving, is to share our thankful things with each other. In this year of feeling regularly uncertain and unsettled, I’m thankful for many things, including that my children have these family traditions, which will continue to evolve – even if, like most other things, they look a little different this year.
Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay appears as Meghan's November 25, 2020 Close to Home column in the Littleton Record.