Thursday, November 22, 2012

families are like Jell-o

Today is Thanksgiving.  It doesn't quite feel 'Thanksgivingy' to me, however.  The aromas of turkey roasting in the oven, sauteing vegetables for my beloved stuffing, and pumpkin pies are non-existent.  I'm not busying myself in the kitchen with preparing holiday deliciousness.  Instead, my stinky dogs sit at my feet and I'm watching my husband and kids build Legos while watching Friends.  I'm not complaining, however.  Just making a general observation about how this holiday is different compared to what I'm familiar with.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  No gifts, no candy (minus the pecan pie which I easily consider an equivalent to Kit-Kats, 3 Musketeers, or Caramello).  Just family and friends surrounded by what I consider the most delicious meal of the year, spending time with each other, sharing stories and laughter, making memories (that you can share at next year's Thanksgiving!), and kicking off the Christmas holiday season.

Technically, our 'typical' Thanksgiving doesn't even really involve the aromas and kitchen preparatory I kicked off this post with.  For the past 7 years we lived in Colorado, and spent the majority of our holidays with our dear friends.  I had the good fortune of working with Sue during my first year in Colorado, and we quickly became close friends.  Over the years, our families integrated and we became blended in our own 'very Brady way'.

Sue and her family are from the Mid West.  'Sconsin to be more specific.  Becoming friends with them has given us the opportunity to learn some of the idiosyncrasies of the region.  One of the 'things' about meals in the midwest (according to my friend) is that Jell-o is pretty commonplace.  Every time we'd share a meal with Sue and her family, there would be at least one variety of a Jell-o mold or salad.

For our family, Jell-o never became a staple on our dinner table.  Jell-o was something we had 'every now and then', as a dessert or a snack.  Sometimes, we'd have Jell-o jigglers, which were always a fun treat, and a great food for the kids' birthday parties because I could make it into any shape to match the theme.  But having Jell-o salad or a fancy shaped mold?  Not unless we were at a picnic or pot-luck banquet.  Yet now, I can't imagine a holiday without it.

Now, for the first time in 7 years, are spending a holiday with just the five of us.  My heart is full of happiness and gratitude for the blessings we have, yet there is a part of me that is sad, knowing that our holiday meal won't include the jilggly, fruit-flavored gelatin we've grown to know and love as part of our holiday fare.  To us, Jell-o represents more than just food.  It represents family.

Sue and her family have been for us, the family that we were blessed with at a time when we didn't have any other family around.  They've been there with us on holidays, helped us out when we were in a daycare bind (or in labor!), birthdays and 'just because' days, and opened their home to us for our last days in Colorado.  I can't help but think of how God put her family in our lives to remind us that family doesn't always have to be blood relation (among many other reasons!).

Family comes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors (just like Jell-o).

This year, we won't be enjoying Jell-o on our Thanksgiving table, and its absence will be greatly felt.  We are so, so thankful for Sue and her family...for the kind words she wrote to every one of us in the cards we received earlier this week in the mail...for the heartfelt and genuine advice and wealth of knowledge she shared with me when I was feeling a little sorry for myself...for the years of hugs and sweet, thoughtful, and personal gifts she has given our family (she knows us all so very well)...for the countless memories (including the exploding glass and mashed potatoes!)...for friendship and love...and for the Jell-o.

There's always room for Jell-o.

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