Where I work, the students were supposed to collaborate on a project due before Thanksgiving Break.
I sat near the front of the room and listened to the conversations developing around me. These are high schoolers. The fact that they talked to each other instead of listening to music or watching YouTube on their phones was impressive to me.
The topics they discussed were standard teen talk: recent movie releases, who is dating who, and which teachers made the “most hated” list last week. But at a table to my right, I overheard a group of four students discussing the upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. All four shared that they had their Christmas decorations up ("No! Too early!" I screamed in my head. Sorry, I haven’t converted to pre-Thanksgiving Christmas decor yet).
The students had high expectations for what gifts they wanted to find under the tree. One wanted a MacBook Pro laptop. Another fully expected the newest iPhone.
I get it. Back in my day—yes, I’m a seasoned soul and am entitled to use that phrase—by early December, I had already marked up the Sears catalog on several pages, circling with black marker everything I wanted for Christmas. I rarely received half of what I'd circled on those pages, but a girl could dream.
So, the discussion about what the students wanted for Christmas was a conversation as old as time between young folks.
But it was the other comments the students made around that table that gave me pause. I might have even leaned in closer, so I wouldn't miss anything.
One girl heaved a heavy sigh and complained about how her family would be going to her grandmother's house for Thanksgiving and how much she hated going there. “My grandma is so ancient,” she groaned. “It’s always so boring at her house and, get this, she still has the ratty old paper turkey I made in second grade hanging on her fridge!” This prompted a chorus of chuckles from her audience.
A boy piped up and added that he goes to his aunt’s house for Thanksgiving every year, and there are always so many people that they have to eat on paper plates that have cornucopias or some other weird fall décor on them. “I just grab a plate of food and hide in the den and play video games,” he said. “I can’t stand most of my family anyway, so no big loss for me.”
Old paper turkey from second grade? I can’t stand most of my family?
Their comments depressed me. That’s what I get for being nosy and listening in on their conversation, right? But now their words play over and over in my head like a recording on replay.
I know why it bothers me so much, too.
We lost my mother-in-law this year and my whole family has felt the loss deeply. For years, when we sit around the Thanksgiving table, our tradition has always been taking turns sharing what we’re most thankful for before saying grace and digging into the food.
I remember my exact words last Thanksgiving. “I’m so thankful to have all my family here today. I know there will come a time when one of us will be missing from this table. I never want to take these moments for granted.”
I had no inclination that my prophecy would be set in motion a few months later when we got the call that she was gone. This year, we will, indeed, have one loved one missing from our table and I’m not ready to face that yet.
I read a beautiful saying recently that I shared with my kids and that rings true for us all:
This holiday season, make sure you take that picture,
with your mother, father, or the aunt you love
but smells like mothballs.
Anyone who’s important to you.
Take the picture.
Even if you’re running late to your next party,
or the baby is fussy, or your hair is a wreck.
Take the picture.
Because we just don’t know who
will be missing next year.
So, take it from me, love your family.
Invite the less fortunate to share your table.
Open your home to friends (maybe even an enemy or two).
And take those pictures. Lots and lots of pictures!
Photo Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a...