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The First Thanksgiving

It’s a bittersweet Thanksgiving for the Meads this year; it is our first holiday without Mom at the table. We are endlessly grateful for the years she shared with us; we still don’t quite know how to live and to celebrate without her and at some level I still can’t quite believe that she’s gone.

But the clan is still growing. Cousin Mike has two new little ones in his home in Georgia. First Niece Elizabeth, whose husband Jonathan has begun a new ministry in the Anglican Ordinariate for ex-Episcopalians drawn to the Catholic Church, is expecting a baby girl sometime near Christmas. Cousin Tim’s two daughters are growing up in China; the river of life broadens and deepens as it flows.

We miss those who are far away from family today, especially the nephew in Afghanistan where, we hear, an all-goat diet gets monotonous as the shades of winter close in. We pray for his safety and for his friends and colleagues.

This year we are trying something new at my brother’s house in the Philadelphia burbs: we are frying the turkey. We’ve got the instructions, almost as thick and intimidating as the federal tax code, on the table. We’ve got the “high quality butcher’s twine” and the recommended two and a half gallons “high quality peanut oil.” We hope it’s high quality, anyway. When we asked at the store if it was “high quality oil” and said we wouldn’t buy it if it wasn’t, they solemnly assured us that it was the best. We’ve checked the turkey for moisture, excess skin (though we really aren’t sure what constitutes “excess” skin on an 18 pound bird) and we’ve banished the two dogs from the turkey preparation zone.

We shall see. If there are newswire reports of explosions and columns of smoke in the west Philadelphia suburbs, it is probably not about terror attacks. We understand that the local KFC outlet stays open on Thanksgiving Day, so if worst comes to worst, we can go to Plan B.

But if all goes well and we don’t burn down the house, we’ll gather as a family today, ages ranging from 99 to 7, and give thanks for another year of God’s grace and love. We won’t have Mom with us for any more meals this side of the Jordan, but her love will never be out of our hearts or absent from our family feasts.

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