Recently, my family’s holidays have been slightly different than the years past.
My father passed away four months ago and my mother four years ago. Therefore, the holidays are more or less what my siblings and I decide to make of them. At the highest rung of the totem pole as the oldest is my brother with his wife and their three young boys, who are closer in age to me than I am to my brother. Then there is the middle child, my sister and her husband. On the lowest rung as the youngest is me.
With the melding of family traditions and go-with-the-flow mentality, the past four years of holidays have been interesting and ever changing.
This past week’s Thanksgiving break was spent at a quaint, homey, beachfront cottage in Santa Cruz, over an hour south of San Francisco. It was the first time all of us “kids” vacationed together due to the uniqueness of our lives and schedules. Having been the vacation spot for various summer outings before, the familiarity was comforting. We were swarmed with memories from our childhoods with our parents. We also were anticipating the plethora of new memories to be created during week together, as well.
In an attempt to cope with the recent death of our father, we had decided Thanksgiving was going to be different than any other we had ever experienced before. Instead of our traditional turkey, mashed potatoes and football game playing in the background, we enjoyed chow mein, orange chicken, fortune cookies and bike rides along the winding cliffs of the bay.
The week was not only a time of mental and physical relaxation, but also a time of learning. I never lived with my brother, and my sister has been out of my home for five years now, leaving each of us living in different cities. New facets of my siblings’ characters were revealed to me through observation and everyday actions. Because our family has endured trauma, illness and death, experiencing life and light-hearted fun together was a blessing that has not been frequently and readily available. The hours of laughs, silence, freedom and togetherness benefited each of us in ways that we might not be able to recognize amongst ourselves. However, we most definitely feel it in the depths of our hearts.
A week plucked from our schedules specifically to be in the company of our siblings in a familiar place under a new context was a soothing way to celebrate the holiday. It was unique, special, uniting and perfectly timed. What a way to spend a week dedicated to thankfulness!