The Thanksgiving Surprise
About a month before Thanksgiving, my younger daughter, who always hosts our family celebration, asked if I'd mind having our get-together on the Saturday after the actual holiday. She explained that all the young adults in the family had conflicting obligations on Thanksgiving Day. I had no objection at all. Having the entire family together is the most important part of the day for me. That and sweet-potato crunch.
When I showed up on the appointed Saturday, covered dish in hand, only my daughter and her husband were in sight. There were other cars there, though, so I assumed all the kids were in the house. My daughter met me as I got out of my car, and we chatted as I followed her to the pool area, where she stopped. I continued talking, eventually turning around to follow where she was looking, and saw the rest of my family lined up in a row at the back end of the pool.
Why were they all standing there smiling? The lack of motion was completely unlike them. I did a slow double take. There was a "Happy Birthday" sign above their heads. And then I saw my sister, my sister who lives in Texas, whom I hadn't seen in more than a year. And then, through tears, I saw her husband, her children and their children, standing among my own daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. All of their spouses and significant others were there, too. I could not believe it.
As hard as it was to wrap my head around the idea that this was a birthday party instead of a Thanksgiving dinner, it was even harder to believe they'd pulled it off without my being the least bit suspicious. It was truly overwhelming--and one of the best days of my life.
Children in a Cage
My son-in-law built a backyard chicken coop earlier this year, and the six hens were the surprise hit of the birthday party. We already knew that Owen, my great-grandson, loved the chickens, but my sister's grandkids are "townies." Invited into the chicken coop (or chicken "hoop" as Owen calls it), they went nuts over those birds. Shown by adults how to hold the chickens carefully, the kids kept track of each time they picked up a hen. By six-year-old Presley's account, she personally caught 40 of them.
The hens were very gracious about being carted around by little hands and proved it the next day by laying their usual number of eggs.
Being surrounded by family was definitely the best part of the birthday party, but the gifts were pretty spectacular, too. My daughters presented me with an iPad--a luxury item I've wanted but never expected to have. Others gave me a leather cover/stand for the iPad and iTunes gift cards to use for the purchase of apps. And, boy, have I used them over the past couple of weeks. It shouldn't surprise you to learn that downloading and trying out iPad apps ate up a huge portion of the time I normally would have used to write blog posts.
The only non-iPad-related gift I got was a very cushy--and very purple--faux-fur throw. I knew when I opened the present that I'd enjoy the comfort of it while watching TV, and I also knew I'd have to fight to keep it for my own. Gimpy loves soft things.
Every time I've left it on the sofa, I've come back to find that he has either settled onto it right where it lay or moved it to the other sofa, pushed it into a ball, and cuddled with it there. Thank goodness he's been very gentle with it, probably because it contains neither stuffing nor a squeaker. I might let him rest his head on it once in a while, but I'll never let him think it's anyone's but mine.
No, I'm not still talking about the purple throw. I'm talking about the happy thoughts and feelings that have stayed with me ever since the party and the surge of emotions every time I've considered writing about it. "Overwhelmed" was the word I used earlier in this post; it still applies.
The truth is that app-time isn't the only reason I haven't written about this sooner. I haven't felt capable enough as a writer to adequately express how much it meant to me. I will always remember the joy of watching Owen interact playfully with the Texas cousins he's never met before. Of listening to my daughters swap stories and philosophies with the first-cousins they've seen too few times in their lives. Of having the beautiful person who is my sister right there beside me, watching all these familial relationships grow stronger.
My wonderful daughters worked a special kind of magic when they pulled this whole event together. It might have turned out to be a birthday party when I was expecting a Thanksgiving dinner, but there's no way in the world I could have felt more thankful.
So much laughter. So much love.