Just over nine years ago, my husband and I drove a small, silver Subaru Impreza from Littleton, Colorado into Northern California. Our vehicle was loaded with a couple suitcases full of clothing and two small children. We didn’t stop until we hit the Pacific Ocean.
Our belongings would follow once we found a house to live in but, for eight weeks, we rented a modest two bedroom home high in the hills above San Jose and got by with very little in the way of “stuff.” Brandon went to work for a small start-up and the kids and I amused ourselves with visits to local parks, libraries and museums.
A week after arriving, Halloween was top of everyone’s mind – namely my toddlers’. We had no costumes and no familiar neighborhood friends to trick-or-treat with but my brother-in-law and sister-in-law invited us up to San Francisco to have the kids trick-or-treat with them. Their daughter was only six months old and wouldn’t care about the door-to-door adventure but they wanted my children to have a good time.
A month later we were still renting, and still without our belongings, when my sister-in-law invited us to her aunt’s home in Stockton to have Thanksgiving with their extended family. My three year old played “Grandma M’s” piano in her Cinderella princess dress and my two year old lay on the floor for hours building Thomas the Tank Engine train tracks with the cousins. Brandon and I shared good food and good wine with the adults. Following dinner Grandma M tossed all the kids into her enormous bathtub with a container of bubble bath. My children were delighted and we all felt grateful to be included as part of the family on Thanksgiving.
After another month, we had finally signed papers on a house but hadn’t yet taken possession. A cousin of my sister-in-law invited us to celebrate a gift exchange at their home in Menlo Park. We shared another evening of good food and good wine while my children received gifts from surrogate aunts, uncles and grandparents. Again, we were the strays but again, we were made to feel like a valued part of the family.
Many things have changed in the past nine years. The young children have grown older and established their own traditions; new babies have joined the family and several family members have died. The dynamic has changed and the extended family doesn’t get together nearly as often.
Tomorrow I will be hosting Thanksgiving at my home for the first time since my son was born eleven years ago. And tomorrow will mark the very first time I have cooked a turkey with all the trimmings.
As I brined the turkey, researched gluten-free stuffing recipes and mixed cranberries and oranges in the Cuisinart, I remembered how incredibly grateful I was nine years ago. We had placed ourselves in a new city, in a new state and yet we found ourselves fully embraced by relative strangers.
My mother is here visiting for two weeks. My father-in-law will fly in tomorrow morning. And I have invited my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and niece and nephew to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. After nine years, and under very different circumstances, I am profoundly grateful to have the health, the energy and the desire to host Thanksgiving dinner.
My hope is that those who walk into my home tomorrow feel as welcome as I was made to feel nearly a decade ago.
NOTE: If you’re late to my 30 Days of Gratitude, here is some context