Reflections on and takeaways from a Thanksgiving that did not go as planned. Time for a clean slate and some Christmas decor!

The Plan

I started my last blog post Our Family’s Mostly Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu with this same heading. I wrote enthusiastically about our family’s menu and that we always spend the day cooking together. And how we then all sit down at the carefully set table to enjoy the meal together.

And oh yes, that table. That was all in my blog post Abundant Harvest Thanksgiving Table Setting. I shared my beautifully embroidered table runner and napkins from Coral and Tusk and told you how my friend and I sewed placemats. I explained the Native American concept of the Three Sisters, which inspired my centerpiece of corn, beans, and squash.

While many on Instagram and in their blogs had moved on to Christmas, I was still firmly focused on Thanksgiving. In fact I had been looking forward to it all year long. Except for a brief jam-packed weekend in August when we all attended a friend’s wedding, this would be the only time our family would be together this year because the kids will be with their in-laws/own families for Christmas. And this year we have the upcoming arrival of our family’s first two little ones in 2023 to celebrate and be thankful for. That means, though, that this would be our last gathering of the “original 8”.

All this is to say that this holiday and time with family meant a lot to me. A whole lot.

The Reality

Looking at social media and reading blogs, it might be easy to think that those of us posting are living “perfect” or “dream” lives. Of course we all know this isn’t true, but it can seem that way. And from my standpoint, as someone who creates this content, I always want to share the highest quality material and be positive with all of you. But sometimes I think it is important to share real life. Even when it isn’t pretty like social media life.

The reality of my perfectly planned Thanksgiving is that my daughter-in-law and I picked up Covid at a wedding we all attended the weekend before. So the two of us spent Tuesday through Saturday isolating up the driveway in our guest cottage (now dubbed the Covid Cottage). I had about three days of feeling really crummy, with a fever and an insanely runny nose. But fortunately neither of us had any real respiratory issues — the thing that has landed so many in the hospital. We are both on the mend now, masked and out of quarantine. Considering the devastation and heartbreak that Covid has wrought on so many, we were fortunate.

Making the Best of the Situation

Thanksgiving looked nothing like how I imagined and hoped it would, though. We did, however, try to make the best of the situation.

The Covid Cottage

I joke about the “Covid Cottage”, but my dil Margaux and I were lucky to have a cozy, bright, comfortable, space in which to isolate. The guest cottage has a queen-size bed and pull-out sofa. A bathroom with shower, a fully-stocked kitchenette, dining table, wifi, and a tv. And yes, it has a view across the field to the water! And also a view of the house, so we could watch what was going on there. All this, completely separate from the main house, but just a stone’s throw up the driveway. Most of the time the space was littered with tissues, mugs of half-drunk tea, medication, and dirty plates, but we were lucky to have it. We even put up the little Christmas tree, so it felt a bit festive.

My Roommate

I am sorry that my dil got sick when she was with our family, but I was grateful to have her company. She is an amazing person, and for what I missed in time with the family, I made up for in bonding time with Margaux. We watched Hallmark movies, did some online Black Friday shopping, and shared multiple meals. Neither of us will every forget this time we spent together. And bonus: Margaux set up the Roku in the cottage!

The Family

While I am beyond disappointed that I did not get to spend quality time with my family, I am so grateful that they were here. They took such amazing care of us two sickos. They cooked and brought us delicious meals. They figured out ways to make us part of what they were doing. We had a couple movie “watch parties”, and they included us via face-time when Leah and Adam cut the cake I had ordered for the baby shower we were supposed to have on Friday. (Oh yes, that was canceled too….) We joined them for masked and “socially distant” walks outside and for coffee on the deck. Leah did the big grocery store shop for Thanksgiving, and Jack and Adam made the run to pick up the turkey, pies, and cake.

But the most amazing thing they did was cook the entire Thanksgiving menu I shared in my blog post (and a yummy breakfast that morning too). They set up tables on the deck, one for them and one set apart for me and Margaux. They even dug out the table runner, napkins, and placemats and decorated the tables with pumpkins. We ate overlooking the water, in our parkas and gloves, snuggled in blankets. Our plates needed to be reheated a time or two due to the chilly temps, but the food was delicious. And we were all together, if just a little apart. Afterwards, they (mostly my husband, I suspect) cleaned everything up.

Margaux and I were released from isolation on Sunday after the rest of the fam had already left, and just in time for Jack and Margaux to head back to Michigan.

The Takeaways

I try to be an upbeat person, but I have to admit that I shed some tears last week. I had planned our family gathering for months and looked forward to it all year. Those of you who have grown children know how precious time with them is — especially after the last few years. Our family is spread across the country, so time together is particularly special.

While I am immensely disappointed by last week, I am trying to focus on the positive takeaways:

Just as the Grinch learned that Christmas is is not about trinkets and baubles, Thanksgiving is not ultimately about table settings or menus (though our food was absolutely delicious). It is, of course, about being together. And while I didn’t get to spend enough time in person with my family, at least we were able to gather here — albeit minus one (Zoë’s husband) and slightly distanced.

We have fantastic kids and they have chosen equally fantastic partners. They are all loving, sensitive, kind, capable, hardworking, and resourceful. (To name but a few adjectives that describe them.) This Thanksgiving was not what they had planned either, but they rallied and made the best of it. And it warmed my heart to know that, down in the house, they were at least enjoying time together. This family of eight we have is pretty fantastic. I am so very thankful for them and excited for the two little additions next year!

While Margaux and I were sick last week, we in general all have our health. That is something that should never be taken for granted.

I certainly missed cooking with my kids, but we are fortunate to have access to and the means to purchase fresh healthy food to create a veritable feast.

And lastly, but certainly not least, we are blessed beyond measure to have this wonderful home in which to gather and, sometimes, in which to convalesce. I am grateful for this place I call home each and every day.

A Clean Slate and Moving Forward

After Jack and Margaux left on Sunday, I went through the house taking apart all that I had so carefully put together. I threw out pumpkins, squash, and corn, and let go of the fall decor I had been hanging onto. I pulled used sheets from beds and carried dirty dishes down from the Covid Cottage. It was time for a clean slate.

With my positive takeaways firmly in mind, and, yes, the occasional lingering bout of disappointment, I am ready to move forward.

Let the Christmas decorating begin!


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