Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for all the Hodgepodge

Tis the season

Tis the season for what?

Tis the season for long lines.
Tis the season for rushing, pushing, and shoving.
Tis the season for frantic shopping.
Tis the season for people late to trains, planes, parties and dates.
Tis the season for never enough time and always one more thing to get done.


Tis the season for thanks.
Tis the season for calling a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.
Tis the season for holding the door open for an elderly person.
Tis the season for taking a long walk through the park.
Tis the season for creativity.
Tis the season for reflection.
Tis the season for gathering together.

I have always believed in gathering together a “hodgepodge” of family and friends for the holidays.  My uncle was great at this. He would stack together card tables that didn’t quite fit, throw on a few different colored table clothes and pull together a mess of chairs to seat all his guests. His friends came from far and wide–from the guy who sat behind him in the office to his neighbor that collected his mail a few times a year. To him–these people were as much his friends as they were his family. I am always amazed how strangers can feel as familiar as the people we have known our whole lives, and sitting around the table together we could practically be related.

It must run in the family because my mom is great at gathering together a hodgepodge of people too. She is famous for big pots of soup that simmer for hours and end up drawing everyone in–from close friends and family, to stray neighbors. I can’t recall a holiday that didn’t include “strays.” In my house, the “strays” are always the honorary guests and as a kid I was always excited to see who would be joining us for the holiday. One year we had a teacher from school, another year we took in law students from Lewis & Clark, and once we even gave up on our “blood” relatives all together, and just got together with friends instead. Every year we have multiple sets of families, stepfamilies, twice removed families, adopted families, friends, and friends of friends squeeze around the table. I used to think we gathered together the hodgepodge because my family was always small, and so we filled the empty chairs with good company from outside the family circle. But as I got older, I realized that size had nothing to do with it–it is the deep sense of community, love and warmth that brings us all together.

Sometimes you don’t even need a table or a warm spot to have an excuse to gather together. This week I was part of an email thread for a new (but old) tradition of meeting in an empty parking lot on Thanksgiving morning to take part in a early morning Turkey run followed by an all day long pot luck (a pre-game to the big Turkey dinner). These friends have turned into my family, and I couldn’t be sadder that I am missing it this year. But my favorite part of the email thread was that someone had loaned us their house to hold the festivities after the run and all of us agreed that this gathering had to take place in the parking lot, in the freezing cold–the traditional way. For us–it didn’t have anything to do with being warm and dry, but it had everything to do with being together, sharing hand warmers, freezing, and feasting.

This year–for the first time ever–I am the “stray.” I have never been the “stray”, but I am so grateful that I will have a seat at the table with my new “adopted” New York “family.”  The more “families” I can be a part of the merrier. And so as you expand your tables, add leafs, add card tables, dust the cobwebs off your extra chairs from down in the basement and the garage, and piece together table clothes, I encourage you to invite a “stray.” You never know when they will just become part of the family. Related or unrelated– it doesn’t matter. Join hands, and be thankful that you have one another–here–there–and everywhere.

Tis the season to eat, drink, and be merry.

This cup is for all the hostesses who do such a good job gathering together all the hodgepodge:

George & Maurice, Chris & Chuck, Barb & Sam, Chris & John, The 49ers, The Supper Club, Mark & Jill, Lissa & Albie, Joanne, John & Alison, and Eli, Sharon, Lanie and Jake.

…For some of the best gatherings I’ve ever been to–Thank you.

And cups & cups of love to all my friends & family–I am thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving.

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