My mom’s dad died before I was born. Her mom died when I was four. She had one sister, who never married. She died a few years ago. No cousins, no grandparents, no aunts or uncles. That’s it for that side.
My dad’s dad died before I was born. His mom died when I was five. He had a bunch of brothers and sisters, some of whom we never met. Some we did, but barely. I’d be hard pressed to list them, let alone get in touch with them. They might as well have never existed. So essentially: no cousins, no grandparents, no aunts or uncles. Also, my dad died seven years ago, so no dad either.
Then there’s me and my sister. We each have a husband and a five year old daughter. Besides that no nieces, no nephews.
Like I say: tiny.
So, when I remember Thanksgiving as a kid, I don’t think about movie Thanksgivings with a kids’ table and uncles reclining to watch football or whatever. What I do remember is the extent of my parents’ generosity and the lesson they taught me about friendship.
You see, practically every year of my childhood my mom would whip up a turkey feast and my dad would find people to eat it. Yes, the four of us would eat, but my dad always opened the door to our home to people who didn’t have any family. He’d actually put up notices at university dorms welcoming international students who had nobody to spend the holidays with.
As a surly tween it drove me crazy that we had to invite these weird people in our house for Thanksgiving, but once they were there it was kind of amazing.
Some of these students came once and never again. Some became family friends and came back for Christmas dinner and Easter, too. I remember two students from Kenya–Enos and Joash–who came for several dinners at our home. They both had kids at home, and were excited to spend time with my sister and I. We thought it was pretty funny to see their reaction to snow and spent one afternoon building their first snowman with them. When they finished up at university and returned back to Kenya, they would send us letters and photos of their respective families.
Now, 30ish years later, I’ve just spent an amazing Thanksgiving feast in the company of wonderful friends, and I’m very thankful for each of them.
Like my parents taught me, I want Scarlett to know that even though our family tree is more of a telephone pole, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve got wonderful friends to spend time with.
Lucky for us, we do.