Last night I was reminding my kids that today is Thanksgiving Day, and they needed to start thinking about things to be tell us that they are thankful for.
Nate, who is 7, spoke up immediately. "I'm thankful for my mom and dad. And for the world."
"Really, buddy? The whole world?" I responded. "Can't you be a little more specific and personal than that?"
"Mom, I AM thankful for the world. Otherwise we would have to live on Mars or something."
His look of incredulity as he explained makes me smile again this morning.
Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family. It always has been.
Possibly because of the massive amount of food involved. Bausums looooove to eat good food.
Certainly the fact that it is traditionally a time for extended family to gather together makes it a particularly sweet holiday for us. We Bausums like family reunions almost as much as we like good food and good music.
We are an extended family that isn't extended at all. The saying goes that "cousins are siblings too." And to us, that's not far off the mark. We've spent our whole lives eating good food and singing good music and playing good card games together. Anyone who can't bond over a game of spades, a piece of pie, and a verse of a well-loved hymn...well, there's something wrong with them, I think.
I've been pondering this morning, thinking on how it is that the entirety of my extended-but-not-extended family remains so close, and so very committed to family gatherings and relationships.
It's because of our parents, obviously.
My dad and his siblings. The 5 of them, and their spouses. Their love for each other and desire to hang out and do life together for all of these years.
Without that, I wouldn't have grown up playing cards or singing or eating pie with my 30 first cousins.
Today, as I prepare for a small Thanksgiving meal (Just me and my own little clan) I am also preparing for tomorrow, for heading to reunite with all my extended-but-not-extended family. There are so many more of us now than just 5 siblings, their spouses, and 35 first cousins. Now more than half of us have spouses and children of our own. In fact, the number of extended-but-not-extended family members at this weekend's gathering will be somewhere around 100.
We can't fit in anyone's house anymore. We have to rent, or borrow, church fellowship halls for our family reunions. We are busting at the seams of every place we go.
And...we love every minute of it.
Now, truth be told, there are a few cousins-in-law (my husband being one of them) who get a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole event. They haven't spent their entire lives in the middle of the chaos-that-isn't-chaos like we have. And they don't know everyone's names and middle names, and they can't chime in when we sing some of our family songs. (Although many of them have been in the family long enough to know some of the songs and some of the names.) They can't really understand. They just have to endure it, because it's their family now too, albeit loud and enormous.
The nostalgia attached to my family-gathering memories cannot adequately be expressed.
And as the years have passed and the family has grown and spread out and become too large to all fit in one house anymore, the gatherings have become less frequent, and some cousins can't make it, and that always makes us a bit sad.
We understand, of course. It's a long, expensive trip from another country.
It's an even longer trip from heaven.
But, we cling together, despite our missing links, and we remember them in conversations, and we carry on our cousins-are-siblings-too motto, and we play cards and eat food and sing songs, and our spouses sit in the corner staring at the chaos with glassy eyes, and our kids run around playing with their second cousins whose names they may or may not remember, and when a young one gets hurt, an older one brushes them off and kisses the wound and then sends them to play, and when a joke is told, we all laugh, and when a song is played, we all sing, and when someone asks if its time for dessert, we all say yes, no matter what time it is, and when we have to leave to head home, we all linger, not wanting it to end.
Yes, that is what a Thanksgiving holiday looks like to me.
We don't sit around saying what we are thankful for, necessarily, but we are overwhelmingly thankful.
For laughter. And music. And food. And chaos.
For our parents. Our spouses. Our children.
We are thankful for the safety and quiet in our hearts when we are together. These are our PEOPLE. Any one of my cousins would fight to the death for me. And I would for them. There is something very calming in that knowledge. It's worth more than I can express.
We smile wistfully at each other occasionally, thinking of our extended-but-not-extended family members who aren't with us, and though we may not say it, we are all thinking the same thing.
We are thankful for heaven.
We are overwhelmed with longing for that reunion.
We are ever-aware of the missing pieces of our family, and ever-grateful that they have been repositioned from our past and our present, into our future.
So, this morning as I prepare to start cooking for today and tomorrow and the next day, I find that I am thankful for the same thing as Nate was last night.
The world. MY world. The people and memories and promises for the future, and hope for tomorrow, and even the pain and the sadness and the broken hearts and the hurt...all of it.
I'm choosing this:
"I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord." Psalm 116:17
Sometimes it is a sacrifice to offer thanksgiving. How well I know it.
But we can call on the name of the Lord. And THAT, my friends, is reason enough to be thankful.