Sharon Randall, 12-03-12: Thanksgiving was different, but still good

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Every holiday is different. Like the people we love, no two are quite the same. We can try to hang onto our traditions. I know I have. I bet you have, too.

But the more we try to relive the past, the more life likes to laugh and say, "Sorry, that was then, this is now."

Take this Thanksgiving.

For the first two decades of my life, I spent every Thanksgiving at my grandparents' home. My mother was one of nine girls who'd show up with a covered dish and a carload of cousins.

Each year would be different depending on who showed up and how much we'd changed.

We would eat and drink and talk and laugh until we had our fill. Then we'd do it some more.

It was Thanksgiving. We were thankful. It was good.

Then I moved to California, married, had three babies and spent 30 Thanksgivings with my in-laws, total strangers who became my family.

Each year would be different, depending on who showed up and how much we'd changed.

We would eat and drink and talk and laugh until we had our fill. Then we'd do it some more.

It was Thanksgiving. We were thankful. It was good.

After my first husband died, my children and I decided to start a new tradition. We stayed home and invited friends to join us. I cooked. A lot.

Each year would be different depending on who showed up, how much we'd changed and how badly I burned the turkey.

We would eat and drink and talk and laugh until we had our fill. Then we'd do it some more.

It was Thanksgiving. We were thankful. It was good.

When I remarried and moved with my new husband 500 miles from our grown children, holidays became a hodgepodge, an ever-changing Norman Rockwell-style scene of faces, places and evolving traditions.

We made the best of it. I still cooked, here, there, wherever. We were thankful. It was good.

This Thanksgiving was a big change for me. My only daughter and favorite son-in-law, who hosted in their new home, refused to let me cook. But we still ate and drank and talked and laughed until we had our fill. Then we did it some more.

It was Thanksgiving. We were thankful. It was good. And the turkey wasn't burnt at all.

My favorite part came after dinner. I was playing on the floor with my grandsons. Randy is 2. Henry is 1. I wish you could've seen them.

They were doddering around the room like happy little drunks, when suddenly they stopped, looked in each other's eyes and laughed really big, with every cell in their bodies, as if they knew things, secrets that no one else knew.

Cousins. Go figure.

They thought they could fool me. Not a chance. I am their nana. I know all their secrets. I can't tell you what they are, but I will tell you this:

In their laughter, I heard loud and clear, distant but near, countless voices -- generations of joined families who lived and laughed and loved them long before they were born.

It was Thanksgiving. It was good. I was thankful.

Christmas this year will be different. Again. Randy's baby brother is due any day. We're not sure if we'll all be together, let alone where or how.

But we don't have to sit at the same table, under the same roof or even in the same time zone, to celebrate together.

We can still eat and drink and talk and laugh -- long-distance, if need be -- and look forward to whenever we can be together.

It will still be Christmas. We'll still be a family. Who knows? Maybe I won't have to cook.

There are all sorts of traditions worth keeping. But the only one to keep absolutely is love.

(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)

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