Thanksgiving is probably my single favorite day of the year. I bring to the celebration a lifetime of memories: waking as a child to the smell of turkey already basting in the white wine and apple juice my father used every year, mixed with the sweet sharpness of the quartered onions and oranges inside the bird. He used to get up early in the morning to start the turkey so that by the time 4 pm rolled around and all our relatives started to arrive, the main course would already be ready.
It was one of the few times in the year when we set the formal dining room table with the good dishes and cutlery and fancy glasses. All of the kids were even poured a smidgen of wine in a real grown up wine goblet. Now I understand how much work my mother and father put in to make those Thanksgiving dinners a reality, but to the child I was, they seemed somewhat magical, springing into elegant life for that one day a year.
Now that I am an adult and have a house and family of my own, I hope that my children have some of the same kind of memories to cherish. We rarely travel to either side of the family for Thanksgiving because my husband has to work on Friday and both my parents and his are a fair distance away. Some years, we have cooked a feast for just the four of us. Other years, we've had a table full of family and friends. Last year, for the first time in a very long time, we did travel--we went to my cousin's home in NH for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner that brought back echoes of my childhood. We came home Thursday night armed with leftovers and full bellies.
There were still some leftovers in the fridge a few days later when the fire started.
A year later, we are all here.
We lost nothing that could not be replaced.
Our house is rebuilt and we are preparing for a Thanksgiving feast. I get to spend the day cooking with my husband, doing our synchronized swim in the small kitchen where every possible inch of counter space will be filled. It is one of my favorite days, not only because of the traditions I grew up with, but because of the shared traditions I have developed with my husband.
And yet I am afraid.
Amidst the joy of returning to our home, I think I have been quietly waiting for the other shoe to drop, that somehow there will be a price for our good fortune, a price that has yet to be paid.
Tonight, I will hug my family a little tighter. They will probably not know why.
I came so close to losing them last year. It is a thought almost beyond bearing.
So, for at least this year, and maybe for many years to come, there will be a place at the table for my fear. Perhaps if I invite it in, like Elijah at the Passover seder, I will be able to make my peace with it.