I'm feeling glad that I didn't get to my "thankful tree" posting before I left. Not that I didn't have a tremendous amount to be thankful for then, but after the wonderful few days spent in Virginia with our families, I feel like I've got even more to be thankful for now...or am just that much more aware of my blessings!
Some of the leaves for my virtual thankful tree would have to be large indeed...
here are just a few of the highlights.
I'm thankful for my terrific parents. They were so relaxed, flexible and hospitable this past week, with so much going on. At 74, they both model a joy in life and an openness to change that I find remarkable.
I'm thankful for our newest family member, my dear oldest sister's husband (they got married in September). Celebrating their marriage was the impetus that got us all together for the first time in five years, and seeing the ways they treasure one another was indeed cause for celebration.
I'm thankful for the time that the sweet girl got to spend with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. It was so much fun seeing her play with H (age 10) and L (age 3). The two littlest girls were especially funny and sweet together, in part because they're so different in personality. Yet they played together pretty harmoniously!
What great food! How can I not be thankful for good food at thanksgiving? Mom's sweet potato casserole...a tender turkey...mashed potatoes...the best cole slaw I think I'd ever tasted...olives and pickles...chocolate pie (in addition to pumpkin...I think I am going to have to learn to make chocolate pie and make this a new family tradition for our little family of three)...my pumpkin-butterscotch cookies (which were a hit...hooray!) and a really interesting and yummy Armenian green bean casserole made with Italian beans. Oh and bread of course, with plenty of butter. My Mom outdid herself this year.
Watching my dear niece H. (the ten year old) climb a very tall tree to get her little sister's red balloon -- she did it! Watching that same dear niece set up a "poitret (portrait) studio" at the back booth in the room at our parents' favorite Mexican restaurant where on Saturday night we celebrated M & P's marriage. H. is a blossoming artist -- her drawings of family members really captured peoples' features and personalities! -- and she's also a bit of an entrepeneur (I think she made almost $2 drawing those pictures!). I love how she would ask us questions about our favorite things as she drew; I think the answers helped inspire her artistic vision!
My two beautiful grown-up nieces who were able to attend, M (age 17) and N (age 24). They're not only beautiful, but warm-hearted and such an important part of our family.
Realizing how much my Dad and brother look alike. They were bending over the congratulations sign my dad had made for the party at the restaurant, and you know, I had a hard time telling those gray and balding heads apart! :-)
That "congratulations" sign itself brought back so many memories. It was my dad's special artistic touch -- the letters cut out from construction papers -- that evoked so many of the handmade lettered signs he made for our home movies for so many of our growing up years.
Watching some of the old home movies that had been converted to video. Epsecially fun to hear the younger generation asking questions about who everybody was. We all kept talking a mile a minute, offering a running, laughing commentary to the movies. At one point, one of the little girls wanted to know why there was no sound, and my middle sister M. laughed and said "we're the soundtrack for these movies ourselves!"
Watching my dear sister-in-law R. walking hand in hand through the leaves with my little girl. Feeling so grateful that my little one finally got to meet my brother and his wife.
Seeing my brother G. again...five years is a long time, especially when I think of all that he's been through (and all we've been through too). Knowing some of those hardships just made time with him, and with everyone, even more precious.
The impromptu sibling get-together at the hotel on the last night of our visit. It was amazing. The four of us sat (first in the bar/dining room, until they kicked us out at eleven, and then in the lobby by the Christmas tree) talking, laughing and remembering. It was the first time in our entire grown-up lives that we'd ever had two plus hours, just the four of us, to relax and be together and I think it will long remain in my memory as one of the most special evenings of my life. I have loved many good friends in my life, but there is something deep and special about the bond between siblings. And mine are some of the most interesting, kind, generous, funny, and intelligent people I've ever been privileged to know.
Seeing how God has been at work in our family as a whole, even (especially?) through some difficulties in recent years past. In all of us, myself included, I glimpsed old bitternesses or wounds that have healed, things let go of, deeper gratitude, more seasoned maturity, more ability to rest and relax and just be. It made the entire visit the most special one we've ever had.
Good food...did I mention good food? Hmm...yes, I did, but that was thanksgiving food. Saturday was the Mexican repast. Quesidillas, burritos, spanish rice, guacamole salad....yum, yum, yum.
The gorgeous hotel. Thanks to my sister and her newlywed hubby, we stayed in what felt like regal splendor at the Embassy Suites. That meant the sweet girl had her own pull-out couch bed in the living room, and we had a door we could close after she went to bed. So my dear husband and I could relax and watch t.v. and cuddle and giggle and just enjoy being together, even though it was past "lights out" for the little one!
And of course, there was good food at the hotel breakfast bar too. I sense a theme here. Wonder how much weight I gained!?
Dear friends L and M, my oldest sister's closest friend and her husband (and dear friends of our's as well, from days I lived in CT and visits in the years of our early marriage) came through VA on their travels up from Florida. L. has felt like a extended sister/member of the family for years, and it just seemed so fitting to finally have her meet everyone and vice versa.
Time spent in the "curtain house" that my daughter created at the hotel. This was the name she came up with for the little space created by the floor length drapes in front of the large picture window. She and I spent lots of time cuddled there in the evenings before bed and in the mornings (we did our morning prayers and Bible reading in the curtain house). She was enthralled with everything we could see from the windows, especially at night...the line of pine trees in the hotel parking lot, lit by street lights, the nearby restaraunts, and especially the blinking red lights of three nearby radio towers. I'm fairly certain that the blinking red light on the tallest one was the one that we could see from our house, and that my sister M. used to insist was "Rudolph" on Christmas Eve. If not, it certainly brought back that fun memory!
Time spent at my husband's mother's house on the way down and back. The sweet girl loved her "little bed" there (the cot they'd fixed up for her in the dining room) and had a wonderful time riding on the rocking horse and dancing to Patty Loveless songs with Grandma!
As you can see, my thankful tree is large and has many leaves!