I come from a big family- with plenty of aunts, uncles, and way too many cousins to count (seriously. I lost count. There’s just so many of them.) Some of my fondest memories- especially around the holidays- are of nearly all of my relatives crowding into my parents’ home for Thanksgiving and the weekend before Christmas for huge dinners and festive parties that extended well beyond my childhood bedtime. Although I can recall only some of the conversations and jokes I’d overheard at those gatherings, I vividly remember sneaking food from the kitchen with my cousins before it had been officially “served,” much to my mother’s dismay- and sitting next to our Christmas tree with my grandfather while we listened to the classic holiday albums my father would play on our old stereo.
As I got older, those gatherings became less and less crowded. Some relatives moved, others became so busy with careers or raising their own families, some simply didn’t get along anymore, and others sadly passed away. It’s all a part of life and the trials and tribulations of family, of course- and although Thanksgiving and Christmas are still a blast to celebrate with the family that still live in the vicinity of where I grew up and whom I still see on a regular basis- I haven’t really had a big festive get together in a long time.
All that changed yesterday, however- when I celebrated Thanksgiving with my mother, aunt, uncle, cousins- and for the first time in eight years- both of my older brothers, their wives, and my niece! My mother’s house was filled with people, food, and conversation- and reminded me of those family gatherings I looked forward to so much when I was a kid. At one point, my brother’s best friend, and who is also a dear family friend I hadn’t seen in years- stopped by, too- which made an already wonderful evening even better.
In a year where I am thankful for so many things and have been blessed in countless ways, I think the thing I’m most thankful for is that my family, once scattered and estranged- are back together again. It feels wonderful, like a hole in my heart has been filled. I wish my dad could be here to be a part of it- more than anything- but I’m sure he’s pleased, wherever he is.
When I wasn’t stuffing my face with the feast that was big enough to feed a small army, or making the above-pictured chocolate truffle with my niece for dessert, I was getting into the Christmas spirit (without participating in the 3 a.m. Black Friday insanity,) by compiling a little playlist of some of my favorite holiday songs from when I was a kid. Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, and others- they’re all on it!
Side note: Even though my parents were pretty lax on my Catholic upbringing- I think the more religion-themed Christmas songs are my favorite. I’ve never understood why. I just think they’re more beautiful than, say, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Anyway- feel free to give it a listen! I’m off to eat leftovers (and will probably be eating them for another week and a half!)