Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wishbones & Turkey Legs

I love reading books about the holidays - fiction, non-fiction, anything that has to do with holidays. Movies about the holidays. magazines covers and Hallmark commercials always catch my eye. Thinking about the types of families that celebrate by sharing a meal together fascinates me. I love thinking about their homes, their lives, their stories.

The only problem with magazines, movies, and books about the holidays is that they're not real. Even the ones that seem 'real'. It's just a snapshot, a moment out of 10 million, and can't really capture the authentic family dynamic.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. The drive to my grandmother's house was filled with anticipation of deviled eggs and cousins galore. Upon marrying I anticipated being able to host my first Thanksgiving, and assumed it would look something like this:

It really didn't, and neither did any of the Thanksgivings before or after my 'first'.

Our family traveled every Thanksgiving until five years ago. We would visit my husband's family, my family, friends, and restaurants. I loved piling into the car with the kids and heading out for a road trip. Nothing would stop me. Not even the year that our daughter, then a toddler, was throwing up. I just took a plastic container with a lid told her to puke into that and to keep the lid closed in between stops. Never mind that we had an 8 hour car ride ahead of us. Oh, the younger years.

The Shepherd family's first Thanksgiving alone was a bit of a bummer. We had only lived in our new town for about 4 months and were terribly homesick for Tennessee. The suitcases were packed and loaded into the car. The dog was even ready to go. Getting away seemed like a great idea, until I noticed that our oldest child seemed less than chipper. The girls had battled strep off and on all summer and I was wary of any illness that came on fast. I put the thermometer under her tongue waiting for the verdict. Sure enough, it was 103. I knew that I could push it - I could take her to an after-hours clinic and still be on the road, with antibiotics, and get to our destination by bedtime. We could do it.

One look at my family, though, and I knew that we had already been pushed to the brink. We were exhausted in every way possible. So I made the call to stay home. I called it quits - which is really going against my grain - forfeiting our spots at various Thanksgiving tables. The children were disappointed and even a little angry.

The next day I called Cracker Barrel and picked up Thanksgiving dinner for 5. We ate out of the plastic containers with plastic forks. One child announced, "This is the worst Thanksgiving ever."

All I could feel was gratitude, though. Gratitude that we were all together, that we had gotten through a hard time relatively well (aside for a few moments that will not be preserved). Gratitude that we were at our table in our home with our children and that we were well. Gratitude that my husband and I could look across the table knowing we were together - really together. Gratitude that our God had carried us along and covered us in grace even when we were unable to recognize it for what it was. While I was sad to not be with our extended families and missed the commotion that being with lots of people you only see a couple of times a year brings, I was also relieved for some quiet after what seemed like a 6 month storm.

Thanksgiving of 2006 may not have been our most beautiful moment but it was definitely one of our most memorable. We call it the Thanksgiving of Strep Throat. Our family has faced tougher times since then, and surely will face others, but we gained some stick-to-it-ness that year. We figured out that even when life seems unfriendly God's blessings abound and that when we focus on the smallest blessings our most monumental problems will shrink - and you can write that down!

Thanksgiving is at my house this year and you can count on it not being picture perfect. There may be a year that I do not have 3 loads of laundry waiting to be folded, but not this one. There may be a year that I don't tell my children to shove things into the office and give directives such as "DO NOT OPEN THAT DOOR!", but not this one.  There may be years when I can light candles and have a tablescape and make lanterns out of gourds, but not this one. Thanksgiving this year will find my family cooking, fussing, and playing cards in a house filled with dogs and turtles gathered around a table eating food that I'm praying turns out okay. Wherever you are and whoever you are with this Thanksgiving I pray that your blessings are more real to you than the food on your plate.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Love how totally real you are, Kara.

    I can't tell you how many blogs I've seen talking about all the gourds they are turning into candle holders. I'm glad that there's someone else out there along with me who WON'T be doing that. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Sarah- someday you and I will have a Thanksgiving meal with cloth napkins and candle holder gourds! Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

  3. Family life is real. I will remember Spencer happily looking for the turkey head as I cut The packaging from the raw turkey. What a dissapointment! No beak, feet, or eyeballs! This was just wrong. They left out all the good stuff. Maybe I could bleach the bones after dinner tomorrow.UMM maybe was my reply. I'll save that project for my house. He agreed and happily helped put herbs on the giant bird even if it didn't have a head. Happy Thanksgiving Shepherd Family.We loved every moment MOM and Dad

  4. Plus, the mom in that fantasy family is totally slutty. Seriously. Who dresses like that for a family gathering.
    For what it's worth, my gravy turned into sloppy gray goo, we ran out of conversation points long before dessert was ready, and yes, we used paper napkins. (I was just impressed they were NAPKINS, and not just Bounty!).

  5. Heather - I know, right? And they're all wearing white!! Too funny. My gravy turned out well, but Spencer stepped on a piece of glass just as we were serving dinner and cried for 30 minutes until Lee and I held him down so we could remove it. AHHH. Good times!