It’s Thanksgiving. Come On Home.

I would be spending Thanksgiving in Philadelphia, a thousand miles from home…“I don’t think I can stand it here,” I said during the weekly call to my parents that Sunday. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Just come home,” my father said. I was crying by then. “It’s too late,” I said. “It’s way too late.”

“You can always come home, Sweet,” he said…

Those were words of loving reassurance from a parent to his child, a reminder that as long as he and my mother were alive, there would always be a place in the world for me, a place where I would always belong, even if I didn’t always believe I belonged there.

But I wonder now, three decades later, whether my father’s words were more than a reminder of my everlasting place in the family. I wonder now whether they were also an expression of his own longing for the days when all his chicks were still in the nest, when the circle was still closed and the family he and my mother had made was complete. We were an uncommonly close family, and I was the first child to leave home. But I gave no thought to my parents’ own loneliness as they pulled away from the curb in front of my apartment in Philadelphia, an empty U-Haul rattling behind Dad’s ancient panel van, for the drive back to Alabama without me.

I gave no thought to it then, but I think of it all the time now. My youngest child left for college in August, and this house has never seemed so empty. It’s not actually empty. My husband is still here, and my father-in-law still comes over for supper most nights. Because we have a big extended family and friends often passing through on their way somewhere else, hardly a week goes by without guests in our guest room. Last summer, anticipating my own sadness once our sons were at school, I put out the word in our neighborhood that I was happy to be a backup car pool driver or homework wrangler, but the presence of borrowed children in this house, though joyful, is also an aching reminder of the years gone by with my own.

No matter how full my life is with marriage and work and relatives and friends and the cares of citizenship in a struggling world, I miss my children. Every day, I miss my children, and as I wait for them to come home for Thanksgiving, I think of my father’s words across a bad landline connection in 1984 that reached my homesick heart in cold Philadelphia. I remember the 26-hour bus ride into the heart of Greyhound darkness that followed, a desperate journey that got me home in time for the squash casserole and the cranberry relish, and I hope my sons know now as surely as I knew it then, as surely as I have known it my entire life: Whatever happens, they can always come home. They can always, always come on home.

~ , excerpts from “It’s Thanksgiving. Come On Home.” (The New York Times, Nov 22, 2017)


Notes: Essay – Thank you Rachel. Illustration – Pinterest

Comments

  1. Aren’t we lucky if we have a home to come to? With people who love us and want us to be there? I hope that on this day of family gatherings, those people who have no home to go to or no family to embrace them, will be welcomed into a circle of their friends and acquaintances.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Always

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful share, David. I hope, after my boys leave home, they will always know and feel welcome to return (though lately, I would gladly pack their bags to leave… 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trying to swallow around the lump in my throat, and it ain’t turkey. This really IS the holiday of family, blood and otherwise. Hold ’em close and keep your heart open…..

    Liked by 2 people

  6. David! this made me cry! geesh.
    It was so beautiful, and true and lovely. Happy Thanksgiving. Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  7. For Canadian Thanksgiving in October, one of the downtown churches invited the families staying at the emergency family shelter where I work to come for a Thanksgiving dinner. There were tablecloths and fancy linens. Silverware and china. Watching the faces in the softened lightened, listening to the chatter and laughter, smelling the aromas of turkey and gravy and pumpkin pie — I was reminded how family is a circle that no matter how challenging the times, can always weather hard times and good times, when we sit around a table and connect.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely story David. Happy Thanksgiving to my American neighbours!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. i really, really love this. read it twice and i understand it from both sides, as i’m sure you do as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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