For 40 years, the holidays started for me the week before Thanksgiving. It was a short work week, and I’d start packing on Monday for my one-and-a-half-hour trip to Jonesboro, Arkansas from Memphis. I couldn’t wait to get in the car and drive over one of Memphis’ two bridges crossing the Mighty Mississippi River.
I’d carefully plan what to wear on Thanksgiving Day with the family, and to church on Sunday morning. Saturday night after Thanksgiving we would always celebrate my birthday with a big dinner of Mom’s homemade chicken & dumplings, my favorite.
When Jim and I married in 1986, we split our time between his family and mine for the holidays, which made it even more special. Different traditions only added to the festive feeling and I happen to love turkey and dressing.
When we had children, packing became more complex. If you’ve ever traveled with infants and toddlers, you know what I mean. And, of course, they had to be dressed perfectly for the holiday pictures. Through those years, the packing and anticipation of the trip became part of the fun of the holiday.
When we moved here to Jonesboro in July 2019, I gave little thought to the holidays and focused on getting settled and helping Jim get started in real estate.
In November, when the subject of Thanksgiving came up, it occurred to me that there would be no packing and driving, no bridge crossing, no overnight stays. It’s a short 15-minute drive to my sister’s house, so if I forget something I can easily drive home and get it.
When I expressed this to Jim, he replied by offering to drive me to Memphis so we could drive across the bridge. Sometimes men really don’t get it, y’all. But it was a nice thought.
Change is a constant. I don’t fear it, I welcome it, because it always brings new experiences to enjoy and new insights.
I think as we age, the changes in our lives help us adapt to the challenges. I miss the days of young children and smocked dresses. I miss staying up late to finish matching sister outfits for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
But I no longer have the energy to stay up late — this one-time night owl is now regularly in bed by 11:00 p.m. I’m too tired at the end of a day to spend hours preparing a full dinner. I’m thankful that I no longer have to worry about diapers, carseats, strollers, and the like — at least not until and unless I have grandchildren.
My mom, at 86, can no longer make the homemade chicken & dumplings, so we’ll do something different for my birthday. I really don’t care as long as we’re all together. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss the gathering around Mom’s dining room table and those yummy dumplings.
Our youngest, Sara Ann, is coming in from Little Rock, so she will be the one packing the car and driving. Elizabeth, our oldest, is in San Diego and can’t make it home. I’m still not used to having a member of our family absent on Thanksgiving.
Tonight, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we’ll stay in our own home, prop up our feet and watch TV like a regular weeknight. And maybe toast the holiday with a nice glass of wine.
Then tomorrow we’ll pack up Artie (our puppy), an appetizer, and homemade cranberry salad and drive 15 minutes to my sister’s. And it’ll be a great day, except I’ll miss Elizabeth something fierce.