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The Relentless School Nurse: The Unset Thanksgiving Table


For almost thirty years, our family hosted Thanksgiving that included extended family and friends. My kids would laugh at me when I insisted on setting the Thanksgiving table a week before the holiday. It was a joyful time in our household and evokes the sweetest memories for me of our close-knit family that has now grown up.

I began hosting Thanksgiving when I was in college. The tradition started one year when my parents and younger sister headed to Florida for a long Thanksgiving weekend, so I had my beloved grandmother to my attic apartment. I don’t know how she walked up those rickety outdoor steps, but she was a trooper. I think that was the year I didn’t know that you had to remove the giblets from the turkey!

Fast forward, a marriage, our first home, and twin daughters brought new Thanksgiving traditions. Hosting Thanksgiving at our house became part of the rhythm of the year. I had no idea then that those years would fly by so quickly. The memories of past Thanksgivings live in the walls of our dining room and living room. Some years our table was so long, it wound through the dining room and made a sharp right turn into our living room. Eventually, we moved our living room furniture to accommodate one long table. There was always a kids end of the table, linked to the adult table adorned with turkey apples made by the children/teens as part of the tradition.

My favorite Thanksgiving tradition was asking each person to write something they were grateful for on a slip of paper as they entered our home. It was up to the kids to collect the reflections. As dinner started, and all of our family and guests were seated, we would pass the reflections around the table in a basket for each person to read someone else’s Thanksgiving wishes. It is a memory that I hope my daughters continue when they have their own children.

I sat last night staring at my empty dining room, the table unset for Thanksgiving and thought about the decades of memories held in the walls of that room. It made me sad to think of the family members who have passed away over the years and thought of each of them as they sat at our Thanksgiving table. My father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, grandmother among the beloved family members that are no longer with us. The list has grown over the years, and in the midst of reliving the memories, I realized that the act of remembering brings great comfort to my profound sadness.

So this COVID Thanksgiving will be very small, just my husband, me, and our rescue pup, Hutch. No turkey apples or kids running through the house. No smell of turkey roasting wafting from the kitchen. We will still reflect on our blessings, which are many, and will remember our loved ones no longer with us. We wish our family and friends a healthy and restful Thanksgiving 2020 in a year when we have to dig deep to find gratitude. We will get through this year, it looks different because it must. Our table is unset this year, but our memory banks are overflowing with precious memories that sustain us. Let’s look forward to Thanksgiving 2021!

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