Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of the paths where the star of the homelight is gleaming.
Thanksgiving reminds me of home.
While growing up, my family had no nearby relatives to visit on holidays, nor other relatives to visit us. As a young child in school, other children would speak eagerly of family gatherings with grandparents, cousins, etc. I felt a sense of mystery, wistfulness, and even a tinge of jealousy, wondering what it would be like to know my grandparents, or even a cousin or two. When it came to holidays, my family lived solitary in that sense, in my small southern town.
Except for one.
One friend often came to our house on Thanksgiving and some holidays. Grandma Sue, as she became known to me and my siblings, came to our small Thanksgiving table. Grandma Sue, the first close friend of my family while growing up, a widow, lived alone, and her three children lived far away.
One day, my father, a new physician in town, had a new patient come to his office. It happened to be Grandma’s Sue’s husband. Unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack soon after, and this incident precipitated a close, lifelong friendship between my family and Grandma Sue. We adopted her, and she adopted us.
Grandma Sue not only came to our Thanksgiving table, but often otherwise. Before she grew too old and stopped baking, she would make homemade sourdough bread and bring us a loaf whenever she baked her tasty bread. Once, Grandma Sue brought me a gift from a trip to Mexico: a little donkey figurine wrapped tightly, in bright, colored threads. No one else brought me gifts when they traveled. This must be what a relative would do.
Grandma Sue was the closest thing I ever had to what a grandmother might have been. I did not grow up knowing any of my grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins. I met my maternal grandparents once in my life, when I was eight years old, on the only trip my family made back to India, to see relatives and a large extended family. I met my paternal grandparents three times: once on a trip to India, once when they came to the U.S. when I was in 7th grade, and then, after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother came to the U.S. for a visit about 20 years ago.
My mother visited Grandma Sue during the day when my siblings and I were in school. I recognized later that Grandma Sue was also a mentor and a friend to my mother. I not only did not see my grandparents, but my mother also did not see her own parents, and this was perhaps the closest person in her life to a mother.
When I was young, I had thoughts and dreams of my future kids enjoying the experience of knowing their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Again, life does not often turn out the way we think it will. I am thankful that my kids do know my parents, though they live faraway. And although there are a handful of cousins, and a small number of aunts and uncles, they also live faraway and gatherings occur about once a year.
Life is far from perfect, far from an idyllic setting or situation, far from the perfect media portrayals of what life is, far from anything I ever imagined it to be.
But the quote above prompts me to think of all that is good, all that I can be thankful for.
I remember the open, starry places, the emerald hills, the warmth of the southern valley, the dreams I dreamed once when I was young, and remember what is good to remember.
Photo credits: unsplash