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Thanksgiving without my mother is different. Really, really different. Dinner’s at my house instead of Mama & Daddy’s. I’m making the grocery list & cooking instead of arriving just in time to help. We’re using a sweet potato souffle recipe written in Mama’s small, neat handwriting, and trying not to think too much about it because tears in the sweet potato souffle just don’t work.

We have Thanksgiving Past on video. Everyone laughing in my parents’ kitchen. Mama fixing the turkey and laughing about it being on videotape, because it’s just one of those things that seems too insignificant to record at the time. She looks at the camera with her big smile, and says “Yep, you can watch this when I’m dead and gone.” and breaks into her signature laugh. It would be funny if it weren’t just a little too true.

I have things to be thankful for, I do. I’m thankful that Sue’s coming home tonight. I’m thankful for my & Bobby’s marriage — that we’ve been able to sit down and begin to figure out this unemployment thing together. I’m thankful for my lovely house.. it IS my happy place, and not a day goes by that I don’t actively love it. I’m thankful for my sisters — it’s hard to imagine how this motherless Thanksgiving would be without them. I’m thankful for my two beautiful nieces, because their mere existence makes every occasion happier and more entertaining and more family-centered. No matter how distant our islands become — mine, Sue’s, Jennifer’s, & Daddy’s — we have our love for Maggie & Sadie as a common thread. I’m thankful for those home videos of Thanksgiving Past — the word “priceless” doesn’t even begin to describe their value. I’m thankful for my mother — she’s not here now, but I had 29 years with her, and for that I’m thankful.

I miss her, I do. Her absence is in everything — every plan, every menu, every moment has an empty, aching hole that she left. If someone had told me that you can still feel the urge to call someone two years & two months after you last talked to them, I’m not sure I would have believed them. But it’s very, regrettably true.

So off I go to do Thanksgiving Present in a new and motherless way. As strange as it sounds, it’s sometimes still so difficult to believe that this is real. It feels like 50 years since I’ve called her & heard her voice say “hello” on the other end, but it also feels like only maybe a week or so. There’s a new sense of time when you’ve lost someone who was a part of your everyday life — days can feel like weeks or minutes. Confusing, but also comforting… I’ll bet that’s what heaven’s like, but without the pain of missing.