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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Thanksgiving Past & Present

There were twenty-four of us, minus Maisy, who was taking a nap. Pop and Grammy, Aunts and Uncles, a host of cousins and significant others. A couple of dogs. The whole clan. Circled up, like always, holiday tradition, post-feast, reading out loud from the Thankful Tree. The goal of the game is to guess each author—no easy task with our handful of newbies—one wife, and at least four special guests of our various collegiates. By the end it’s obvious. Felipe’s been keeping track, like a game of Settlers, or a hand of Wizzard. Must be Pop. Or else it’s Brian.

The last leaf read, Kyle speaks up. Big News—on Felipe’s behalf. There’s been a hint already. His leaf-list of gratitude, and a line about being thankful for a new plan, a change ahead. All the brothers know what’s coming, Grandparents, too. But it’s news to the cousins. Felipe’s enrolled at a University in Colombia, where his friends are students. His foster brother’s Alma Mater, now a doctor. And Felipe thinks maybe he’ll follow in Damian’s steps, studying medicine, or some form of science.

Uncle Trent asks the question on everyone’s mind, and I assume Felipe would rather share the answer in private. Why are you leaving? He’d told me earlier, the one thing he’d rather avoid is a lot of emotion, but somehow here, circled safely, he tells it bravely. How he’s struggled to make this place his home. And we know it’s true. Not ungrateful. Just unhappy. He appreciates his parents, and all this family. Truly he does. But he misses it still.

Six years past. Thanksgiving. I remember it well. How we sat at Grammy’s table with our secret prayer. We passed the turkey and ate our pie, the whole time thinking about two boys, brothers. Not a month later, back at this table, lighting a candle on Felipe’s birthday. Sharing our news.

All this I remember out loud, Thanksgiving present. Apologizing for the tears—and not just my own. It’s Uncle Brian who suggests we pray, first one, then another. Seeking God and speaking blessing. Later I wrap my arms around my son, less than four weeks shy of his twenty-first birthday. Two weeks shy of boarding that plane. I look in his eyes, and I know. He knows. He’s loved.

Next day we’re at Gina’s. This time it’s only my sister’s family and ours, post-Thanksgiving snow keeping the rest of the Eastvold-tribe homebound south. The pizza has just arrived when Felipe asks if we’d like to chat with Doris on WhatsApp. His foster family, there in Colombia, knowing part, but not all, of his current plan. They ask their questions in Spanish, and we ask ours in English, Felipe translating. Two moms, two homes, two legit families, both saying the same in two languages. We want what’s best for our son.

Five years post-Christmas we’ve been a family. Five years, too short, seems like forever. Goodness. All the changes. Adding wives, a baby, girlfriends, a dog. Boys turning men, growing up and moving out. Out of state, out of country. And it’s Kyle who looks around our Thanksgiving circle, sees the tears, and hears the prayers, and reminds us all. “It’s one more going off to college.” No more, and no less.

Because at the end of the day, nothing changes. We’re family. Seven. Ten. Twenty-four and counting. Doris, and Damian, Christian and Marcia. Hamanns and Eastvolds. Do you see it, Felipe? THIS IS YOUR CIRCLE.

Now and forever. Ever-widening. A whole lot of love.

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