my family was traditional. we had our traditions, and for years and years we followed those traditions faithfully like the children of hamelin followed the pied piper. for thanksgiving we would gather, aunt june crafting a ridiculously lavish meal. every course imaginable was arranged across the delicate crocheted lace tablecloth, the table set proper with a centerpiece and candles and matching china and silver and crystal glasses beneath the chandelier. we would hold hands together, in a circle, heads down respectfully while uncle earl said grace. a devout man, a spiritual man, his grace was always a beautiful and simple expression of appreciation. thank you, heavenly father, for bringing us together, for the nourishing food that you have provided, bless it to our body's use, amen. we would eat forever, then fall down sleepy on the burgundy leather couch and watch television. it was thanksgiving, and it was the same, year after year.
ever since mom died, holidays have been hard. i suppose that goes without saying. but holidays seem to emphasize her absence. when she left, we were all at a loss. for a while, we tried to do the same old thing. it was horribly lonely, staring across the table at each other, faces forlorn. we were trying with all our might to be thankful, but only ashes remained.
this year is different. i am thankful. because this year, all the traditions we held fast to have been broken, shattered like a bottle on the mast of a ship. because with every end, there is a beginning. and for this, i am thankful. this year, james and i spent our first thanksgiving together. we sat at our oak table, the table handed down to me, in the chairs my mother refurbished with her own two hands, the table and chairs of many a family meal. we ate salmon that was caught by james in our local river, and squash that was grown by the hands of a friend, all cooked in a cast iron pan on the woodstove that heats our home. we finished with pomegranate seeds, the symbolic fruit of greek mythology from which the seasons were born. it couldn't have been more perfect.