I’m starting to figure out that gratitude makes me a happier person–acknowledging the incredible things in my life is an act worth doing. While I am very intent on not minimizing struggle or difficult feelings, I think it is possible to both sit with hardship and count my blessings.
This year, SB and I are missing our beloved Grandnanny. For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving for us has been marked by her home and her heart. We would wake up on a chilly Thanksgiving morning, full of anticipation, and drive the two hours to northern Alabama. We’d arrive an hour or two before lunch, where the hustle of setting the tables and finishing up the cooking had begun. She was always so happy to see us when we got there. The feast that ensued was nearly overwhelming, but perfectly southern, the real deal. Turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, green beans, squash casserole, lots of other casseroles, frozen fruit salad, cornbread. And pies and cakes. She tried to make something for everyone–poppyseed chicken for me. Coconut cake for dad. After the meal, some watched football. Kids played basketball or football outside, Dad often leading the pack. As we got older, there was more lounging and helping to clean. When we were younger, we would stay into the weekend, happy to fill our days with small-town adventures like going to the Wal-mart or playing on the local high school football field while dad ran laps. By the time we headed back to Birmingham, Christmas was on our minds and the Raffi holiday tape was playing in the car.
The thought of no more Thanksgivings in Russellville is hard to swallow. But I’m feeling grateful to have had so many holidays with Grandnanny and to be able to build on those memories and rituals. This year, I’m going to take a stab at recreating her green beans. We have invited some new friends over. Yesterday, we hung an old quilt of hers on our wall. I’m grasping to hold on to her, to keep her spirit and memory alive in me.
I’ve been reflecting on what I’m thankful for after a year marked by change, long absences from family, loss, and moving. Lately, I’ve realized that the strength of my relationships with my family, in-laws, and dear friends is what has kept me grounded and sane and a little less lost. While we have laid our heads a few different places this calendar year–DC, Birmingham, and now Bahrain– our families have grounded us. They’ve opened their homes, fed us, taken care of Campbell. Since being here, they’ve endured sketchy phone calls, sent us packages, made phone calls to US doctors, etc on my behalf. Our dear friends have stuck with us too, sending letters, setting up Skype dates, stepping into help with Campbell before we left. Our family and close friends–our people– have gone to great lengths to communicate their love. And it has made all the difference to me; I am so grateful.
I’m also particularly thankful for my new nephew, for his health, sweet cheeks and smile, and budding personality. SB and I are just dying anticipating introducing him to Campbell this Christmas.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. From Dallas and from Bahrain, we wish you a holiday marked by gratitude and warmth.