When I was a kid, Thanksgiving meant cousins, lots of cousins. We made many trips to Oroville, CA, and Burson, CA, and some years we hosted the dinner at our house in Antioch (did I ever mention the time we actually transported 2 live turkeys tied up in 50 lb Purina Dog Chow bags with their heads sticking out on a 2 hour car ride in our station wagon and one of them busted out and started flapping around all over the back of the car? A traumatizing story for another time). Growing up, there was always lots of family around on the holiday.
When I got married, Marty and I would rotate going to her family's one year, and then mine, but driving back from Sacramento, we always managed to swing by my folks' place because it was on the way home. It just wasn't Thanksgiving unless I saw my mom with a dish towel draped over her shoulder as she cooked the turkey or was heating up leftovers, depending on the day.
Three years ago, one week before Thanksgiving Day, Mom passed away. I knew as I stood by her hospital bed, talking with her for the last time, that I would not be seeing a towel over a shoulder that year. Anticipating that fact was difficult.
Tomorrow it will be a table set for 5. Just us, the Couch's, no one else. Our house won't be crawling with cousins and aunts and uncles, or even my own siblings, for that matter. They have their own families to tend to. Its not what I was raised on, so, for me, it makes me a little sad because we usually want our kids to have the good experiences we had when we were young. And with that, of course, Mom won't be in the kitchen, but maybe I can get Marty to work a towel on the shoulder for me. It will be me, Marty, the best wife in the world I could have ever hoped for, Julia, who's excelling in her school work (once again) and is a great friend to schoolmates, Ella, who is also at the top of her class and walked 20 laps in her school walk-a-thon (incredible little kindergartner), and Max, who continues to be a source of laughter for us.