Being Thankful Through the Holes

photo of pumpkins
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From Kristen:


I love the fall here in New England. I love gathering for a feast (I didn’t marry a chef because he’s cute.) I love turkey with all the trimmings. It is one of my all-time favorite meals (and my absolute favorite leftovers).

I love it when the college kids in our family and neighborhood come home for the long weekend. I especially love when they stop by to see “Mama & Papa Allen” (me and my Personal Chef).

I love football (well, really, I love half-time marching band performances).

I love pie. I really love pie.

And however dorky it may sound, I love taking time to think about the things I am thankful for, and when possible, to demonstrate that gratitude.

From Mary:

Like Kristen, I usually love Thanksgiving. I’m a side dish girl, and there are more at Thanksgiving than at all the other holiday feasts put together. (Now that I’m in charge of planning, I make sure there’s four times as much as we need of each so we have leftovers for days. DAYS! Mwahahaha!)

We keep it very casual, watching the parade in the morning followed by the dog show, serving mini buffets for breakfast and lunch, and hopefully running around outside.

I’m not sure if the kids will feel too old this year to make handprint turkey hats, but I may sneak one on my own head.

K: Traditionally, we celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband’s family in Maine. Just over a dozen of us will gather this year, coming from all over the country. The ongoing conversations online, planning the meal and other visits over the weekend has already brought my husband and me so much joy.

M: We live far away from our families of origin, so we tend to stay put for the holidays. This year it will be just our immediate family, but we’re so thankful that will include our oldest daughter and her wife. We don’t get to see them as often as we’d like and it’s a treat to have all our kids under one roof.

K: I am really looking forward to this time, even if it won’t be all of us together.  Several of our clan have to work over the holidays. Others live too far away to make the trip. Their absence will be felt.

It will be less chaotic, less messy without so many kids, grandkids, and dogs underfoot. It will be a more peaceful day, for sure. For me, though, it is a loss. I love my husband’s cousins. I adore the nieces and nephews, and their children. I will sorely miss the conversations about books, school, music, sports. I will miss the laughter.


“I miss Grandma and Grandpa’s house,” one of my kids said to me this morning.

“Me too.”

“But I miss Grandma and Grandpa more.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

We’ve got some holes in us this Thanksgiving.

Two years ago my parents moved out of the old homestead, the best possible place to grow up. It was sold and torn down. Shortly after, my dad died. A few months later (this past March), mom died.

This particular kid has this conversation with me several times a day still. Sometimes it’s followed by crying, sometimes by a change of topic. Today it’s followed by a joke about Grandma and Grandpa being zombies, and a request for dessert.

We all grieve differently.

How do I stay thankful through the holes?

K: We have some holes, too.  I will miss Aunt Evelyn and Aunt LaVern, the last of my husband’s aunts, both of whom passed away this year. I recognize that I was not as close to them as the rest of the family were. Others have certainly suffered far more than I in their grief. And I certainly cannot compare this to the loss of parents.

I think it is a sign of lives well-lived, though, that still I feel their absence. The aunts touched my life in a real way. Knowing that I will never again hear LaVern poke fun at my mother-in-law in that gorgeous southern drawl of hers; knowing that Evelyn’s deadpan dry humor is gone forever seems like a small thing, maybe.

Among the things I’m thankful for this year are the memories of thirty years of family gatherings with my husband’s people. Each encounter has enriched my life.

M: But the holes are still there. They pop up when and where we don’t expect—in the debate about raisins in stuffing, in the Snoopy float in the parade, in the doggone handled grocery bags that Dad loved and took home with him because they made recycling his newspapers easier. Even though I know the holes are coming I’m not sure yet how to handle them.

K: Right? I’m going to miss the childlike squabbling my father-in-law shared with his “baby” sister, as if they are still a pair of school kids.  And those quiet moments after the dinner, once the dishes are done, but the pie hasn’t yet been cut? That is usually when Aunt Evelyn and I catch up on each other’s lives.  I don’t know what will fill that time this year.

M: Perhaps I’ll take a tip from the kids—speak the holes out loud, peek through them together, wiggle our fingers around in there, and have another slice of pie.

K: Yes. More pie!

However you fill your holes this year, we two wish you all a happy Thanksgiving!



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