They come in waves, these year-end holidays of ours.
First, the small ripple of Halloween breaks in October, followed by the growing swell that is Thanksgiving…until finally…well, we all know the tidal wave that comes after that.
It’s the holiday season, which at least to me, and I’m sure many of you, seems to wash over us faster and faster with each passing year.
I mean, what’s up with that?
Wasn’t it just yesterday I was sitting on the living room floor, in front of the fireplace, tearing through the giant Sears Wish Book Catalogue, picking out all my toys…or at least the ones I was wishing for?
Well, yeah…actually it was, or really more like yesterday afternoon…but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is, these holiday waves come upon us whether we’re ready for them or not.
And with each passing year—and really, now, it’s more like decades—I can’t help but notice, on every waning tide, the holiday table grows sparser and sparser, with more and more familiar faces gone.
Oh, I don’t mean we can’t still fill the table, but every time I look up it seems there’s another smile missing, another story left undone.
But I guess that’s how it goes with holiday waves, especially the ones that carry the people in our lives that matter most; each one breaks in its own way, in its own time.
We drop into this ocean as fresh young tots, the ocean, already populated, the waves, in motion and the seats at our holiday table filled and in place.
There are grandparents, and in some cases great-grandparents on the first wave.
Parents, Aunts, Uncles and close friends of same, behind that.
Older siblings and cousins, cresting and dipping on the wave before you.
Of course, back then, we took it all for granted; the expected familiarity, the calm, the ease, the continuity from one holiday to the next.
They become ingrained in our minds, in our hearts and in our souls.
Those memories and feelings that we always recall…that we best recall…whenever we need to recall something, anything, to keep us from lingering too long on the idea of those waves, forever rolling, carrying us toward the shore.
Before we know it, and much too quickly, we find ourselves on the front line of those determined waves, still a distance from the shore, but drifting closer, without buffer, as the decades behind us recede further and further into the past.
Now, we’re the ones, seated and in place as each new ocean ripple forms into a new found wave of its own, pushing us, as we once pushed ourselves.
Now, we’re those comforting faces, the continuity and the foundation, of their memories, later to be recalled.
Sure, waves will always roll unceasingly towards the shore; but with each new passing tide, family and tradition rides along with them, gently passing back, from the first wave to the last.
Sitting at the holiday table these days, I see new faces, replacing old.
But the old faces, they’re never really gone.
Just as the wave breaks, then folds back into the sea, so do those faces return to us with every holiday table set, with every holiday tradition met.
So this Thanksgiving, light a candle in your mind, in your heart and in your soul, for all those missing smiles…and all those empty places will once again be filled…from one wave to the next…over and over again….
And have a happy Thanksgiving.
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