It’s no secret, Gentle Reader, that a great deal of my family on both sides is no longer with us. It can be a little rough, at the holidays: my remaining relations are scattered far and wide, and often have their own families and traditions to observe. It’s been a few years since Maman and I’ve been able to have that Norman Rockwell fantasy of a household full of loving family.
My dear Mr. Darling, of course, was aware of this, and invited us both to spend Thanksgiving with his family – his parents, endless uncles and aunts, scores of cousins – reams and reams of people. Maman and I have known the Darlings for years, of course – but we hadn’t seen much of them since the days when C.W.L. and I were in high school, when our parents would constantly confer about the various mischief we got into. We were hesitant about accepting, but honestly – what did we have to lose?
We arrived, bottle of wine in hand – trembling, trepidatious. The door swung open before we rang the bell, and cheery golden light spilled out, and laughter; hugged, ushered in, offered Bill’s signature Thanksgiving cocktail – invited, introduced, inducted. C.W.L. was bustling in the kitchen; his mother, with a warm happy glow, pressed me into service, while she and Maman caught up. I was happy to help.
His family, overwhelmingly Catholic, uttered a lengthy grace before the meal, unlike the Lutheran prayer in Norwegian we were used to. His family passed things around the table clockwise, while we were used to longstanding jokes about confusion about which direction the plates should go. One thing that we were used to, they had in spades: love, camaraderie, acceptance.
It was a perfect Thanksgiving, like we hadn’t seen in years, and we were very thankful to share in something that we thought we’d lost.