As you get older, you come to treasure certain memories more than most. It’s a natural thing. If you’ve conducted yourself a certain way, it can be a beautiful thing. It’s not always a pleasant process, especially as you encounter major life challenges and inevitable hardships. That doesn’t make it any less meaningful.
The holidays are a time during which we form many such memories. I certainly have. Some of my most cherished memories occurred over the holidays. Some were on Christmas and some were on Thanksgiving. This year, with so many friends and family still isolated due to the pandemic, I find myself contemplating those memories more than usual.
I doubt I’m alone. There’s just no getting around it. For Thanksgiving, especially, we just can’t do things the way we normally do in 2020. That’s just the reality of a deadly pandemic. We can’t travel, get together, or casually share used forks. It’s sad and frustrating, but that’s just the way things have to be for this year.
For me and my family, that’s especially difficult. That’s because every year, my parents make it a point to make their house, the same one I grew up in, the epicenter of all things Thanksgiving. Every year, family from all over traveled to our part of the country to get together, have a giant meal, and just enjoy each other’s company.
These gatherings were often the biggest family gatherings of the year. It wasn’t unusual for there to be at least 20 people crammed into that house. It was big and rowdy, but we all loved it. I certainly did. We had so much fun, sharing in the joys of food, family, and football. I’m really going to miss that this year.
Rather than dwell on that, though, I’d like to share a quick personal story that I hope will get others through this pandemic-hit holiday. It just happens to be one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories of all time and one that perfectly defines what makes my family so awesome.
This particular memory unfolded when I was fairly young. I was still in elementary school at the time and much of my extended family wasn’t that much older. Once again, my parents made their house the central focus of Thanksgiving festivities and we attracted quite a crowd. I remember aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends joining in, some of which I hadn’t seen in years.
In addition to the usual gathering and feasting, the weather this year was just perfect. It was unusually warm for late November. A number of cousins and friends wore shorts and a T-shirt. It was just that nice out. As a result, we hung around outside a lot more than usual. It’s here where this Thanksgiving memory really takes hold.
Shortly after we ate, a bunch of cousins and extended family gathered in the backyard and started throwing around a football, as many are inclined to do on Thanksgiving. It started as a simple game of catch between a few cousins. It then evolved into a full-fledged game, complete with route running, elaborate plays, and touchdown dances.
We didn’t plan it.
We didn’t keep score.
We didn’t even set clear rules and time limits.
We all just came together as friends and family to play a football game in the backyard. It felt so natural and organic. It was a perfect manifestation of everything we loved about Thanksgiving get-togethers.
If that weren’t memorable enough, some clouds rolled in near sunset and it started raining suddenly. However, not one person in the backyard ran inside. If anything, it just made everyone more excited to play. The game kept going. We kept running around, tackling each other, and just had an all-around great time.
Being a kid with a belly full of Thanksgiving dinner, I honestly didn’t want it to end. I wanted to just hang out back there and play football until the sun went down. Even as some friends and family had to leave, we kept going for as long as we could. When it finally ended, I knew on some levels that this had been a special Thanksgiving.
Time has only proven that sentiment right. To date, it’s one of my most cherished Thanksgiving memories. I’ll likely cherish it even more as I endure a Thanksgiving without that big family gathering I’ve come to love and appreciate. I know many in my family feel the same way.
Thanksgiving this year may be disappointing in its scope, but I would encourage them and everyone who shares that feeling to think back to those memories. More importantly, use them as inspiration, as well as motivation, to make Thanksgiving in 2021 even more special.
I hope this little story has boosted your holiday spirits. I also hope everyone finds a way to enjoy Thanksgiving this year, however tempered it might be. The holidays are here. Let’s not allow a pandemic to dampen our spirits.