Thanksgiving mornings when I was a kid, I always woke to the smell of my mother’s delectable breakfast casserole. She prepared it the night before because she knew none of us boys or my dad were going to cook breakfast, and she had other things to do. She was an incredible chef, and Thanksgiving Day in our house was her day to shine.
We’d gorge ourselves on the casserole, and by one o’clock, we were hungry again. No fear: mom whipped out a pint of raw oysters—always oysters—with cocktail sauce and Saltines and a baked brie topped with raspberry jam and slivered almonds. Hunger crisis averted.
Around three, people would start showing up. In the early days, it was usually ECU students stranded in town for the holiday. Later, after mom got sober, they added friends from her AA group who also had nowhere to go, and Thanksgiving became this wonderful conglomeration of disparate people. The conversation and drinking—for those who still drank—would go on late into the night.
All year round, my parent’s house was like a stop on the underground railroad for folks in need of comfort and fellowship. Anyone was welcome, and I learned hospitality and inclusiveness from them. I learned a home isn’t a truly warm unless you use that space to gather those you love and who love you back. Because life is empty without meaningful, loving relationships.
These were my thoughts when I woke up this morning. I swear I could smell her casserole baking in the oven (which, BTW, Andrew does a really good job at replicating). I lay in bed and thought about them, and my heart grew so full that I know there were there with me.
I cried for minute, not out of grief, but out of gratitude that I had the most incredible set of parents. We weren’t the perfect family, but we always strived to be better. And entertaining was one of the ways that they achieved that. In fact, I still run into people today who tell me that they went to “one crazy party” at my house.
Today, be thankful not only for what you have, but what you had.