I sat in the Santa Fe apartment one Thanksgiving a decade ago, watching out the window as the gray skies turned white with snow obscuring the Sangre de Cristos.
It had been a dark year and I'd retreated to my Uncle Mike's home, where it was warm and friendly, if lonely. I yearned most for phone calls from my far away children, and the conversations, while brief, added to my Thanksgiving for a sanctuary, for hope, for acceptance.
Isn't it strange the images and memories that come to us on Thanksgiving? While I remember few as a child growing up, I have an aquifer of them from the time I began my own family...and most are joyful, though tinged with sorrows and regrets as the years pass.
Each of you have similar memories...I can recite a few, because they run together the more there are. One, in the rolling corn-stubble fields of eastern Iowa, my wife and first born son dined on a pheasant I'd shot that day. It was stringy meat. The decorations in the big two-story farm house and love were wonderful.
Another, the entire family, including in-laws and more, packed up and rented a cabin, kitchen and all, at Red River New Mexico, splitting the costs, dining while snow fell outside.
For several years my brother, wife, and his children trekked from West Texas to visit and play games and dine. The cousins played and laughed.
When those visits ceased, Thanksgiving lost some of its splendor for me. It would become a day of sadness and thoughts of time passing.
Later, our southern Oklahoma home became the center for gathering around a round oak table, and photos were always taken, a big smiling crowd of all ages. But we didn't take enough, because as some died, we wished we'd taken group photos every year.
I don't know the memories my children have of the gatherings, but I'm sure they are richer than mine, and I cherish what they have. Now their families are making their own memories, of which I'm a small part, as scattered as they are. I also cherish the brief moments I have with them on these holidays, remembering the earlier ones.
Now as I gather in other in-laws' homes, and the family prayer is said, naming people I don't know, I garner new memories of graciousness and joy. And one year, the prayer included petition for my first-born son who was then serving in Iraq.
But I miss my trips to Santa Fe, visiting with my uncle. Now the falling snow will be on his grave in the National Cemetery across from the window where I watched not so long ago.
Thanksgiving and its memories are a glue that holds me together. I am thankful for much, and especially the memories.