Marlee told me stories from Thanksgiving Day as a little girl. How her and Brandi would spend all morning over at their MeMe’s house playing in a cardboard box full of colorful leaves. They would sort through all the colors and separate them into piles of their favorite ones and laugh and talk for hours, until their mom would open the door and yell that dinner was ready. All the cousins, aunts, and uncles would sprawl out between the living room and kitchen and go around in a circle listing three things that they were thankful for that year, and saying grace before stuffing their faces full like savages. Of course, football would be playing in the background.
Years passed and people got older. Some cousins and aunts became distant, and Thanksgiving changed a little. Instead of dinner at MeMe’s, they would gather at Marlee’s house for the festivities. Just Marlee, her mom, her dad, Brandi, Travis and MeMe. They would watch football, eat until they had to unbuckle their jeans and then spend the rest of the evening playing card games like Phase 10 or SkipBo. Some things stayed the same. They still went around the table listing the three things they were most thankful for and they still said grace before taking that first bite of turkey.
Some more years passed and everyone got even more older. Marlee, Brandi, and Travis all moved out and were working full time jobs and MeMe became fragile and was unable to make the trip over to the house for dinner. Marlee would eat around the small dining room table with her brother, sister, mom and dad, while football played in the background. After they were done eating and cleaning up, they would all venture over across the yard for some card games with MeMe. Like I said before, some things changed, but some things stayed the same. They still went around the table listing the three things they were most thankful for and they still said grace before eating.
Thanksgiving kept changing and dinner grew smaller, however, memories grew bigger and so did her list of things to be thankful for. Instead of being thankful for just a cardboard box full of colorful leaves to play with Brandi in, Marlee became thankful for a family to share the holidays with, a grandma that was still able to play card games with, and a job that payed for things like cable, so they could watch football games on the TV together. She became thankful for the time she did get to spend with her family and MeMe and even more thankful that she was raised in a house were they learned to praise and thank God before eating.
Sure she missed the simpler Thanksgivings where her biggest worry was collecting better leaves than Brandi, but she loved the newer Thanksgivings, where she was a part of the adult conversation and was able to play games with everyone in her family, including Brandi.
Thanksgiving Day changes for everyone, not just Marlee and her family. Everyone grows older, people move away, and things are just different. It’s sad, but it’s also exciting. As things change and Thanksgivings come and go, everyone continues to gather more and more things to be thankful for. Going around the dinner table listing the top three things you are most thankful for becomes harder, because the list has grown to ten or more things.
You’re thankful for your old family, the new families you might have started, the adult jobs that you have, the friends that you have made through the years, and the memories you have created along the way. You aren’t just thankful that God healed that scraped knee you got falling off your bike as kid, but you’re now thankful that God healed that broken heart your sister had after her college relationship ended and thankful that he healed that sick little boy from your church in time for the Holidays. You are thankful for bigger things and you are thankful for more things.
Thanksgiving changes. Everything changes. It’s part of life. However, we should all be thankful for the change. We should all be thankful that we get older and our lives evolve. We should all be thankful that we have more to be thankful for. But we should also be thankful for the things that have always stayed constant.
Hold onto those endless hours of card game playing with your grandma, the time you spent with your dad in front of the TV watching football, and the fact that you learned to say grace before eating Thanksgiving dinner. Hold onto the things that stay constant while also opening yourself up to the change that will bring you more things to be thankful for.