Take Me for Granted

Rich, me, and a Nameless Turkey. Thanksgiving, 2007.

The Thanksgiving House

“We’re thinking of bringing the kids down with three-day passes to Disneyland for Monday through Wednesday,” my brother Tim said, “That is…if you’re doing Thanksgiving again this year.”

“Of course we are! We look forward to having everyone here.”

Tomorrow we celebrate our fifth Thanksgiving in our home in the canyon. And tomorrow, for the fifth consecutive year, we’ll welcome the Seiler family around our table. My sister, her husband and their two boys will drive over from their home, a one-hour trip when it isn’t a holiday. They’ll pick Dad up on their way, maybe, or perhaps he’ll bring his own car. Tim, his wife, and their two children drove down from the bay area at the beginning of the week, treating my niece and nephew to a Disneyland trip and catching up with Tim’s boyhood friends who still live in Southern California.

Our first year here, I put the word out early–in July–that we’d like to host Thanksgiving. The next year, our first holiday without Mom, I asked my sister privately: “Do you mind if we do Thanksgiving again this year?” She didn’t. We gathered that November, all together for the first time since Mom’s memorial service, and gave thanks, each of us navigating around the big hole where our family’s heart once lay.

Now, as our fifth round of turkey stuffing and family gathering and a table heaped with His abundance approaches, apparently the tradition is fixed. Some years one or more of our children join us, or Rich’s parents–but always, my dad, my siblings and their children gather around our table to give thanks.

Every year my niece and nephew–my brother’s girl and my sister’s younger boy–make place cards. Every year my brother helps my husband bring our big teak patio table into the kitchen, where we abut it to the dining room table so we have one long expanse to seat the whole family. Every year at least one of the kids comes to watch as I whip cream for the pie with my big red stand mixer.

I came very late to the host-the-holiday phase of life. I didn’t finish graduate school until I was 35. Student housing didn’t provide me with a table, let alone a kitchen. When I was married to a hoarder, our home was so stuffed with stuff that I couldn’t see my table, couldn’t imagine inviting anyone in to the mess that our home and lives had become. Those were the years that I sometimes cooked Christmas dinner and hauled it to my sister’s house. She had a proper home.

My husband knows what it means to me to welcome family at the door, to skitter around the kitchen in my apron, chasing down the last lump in the gravy with a whisk, nudging the turkey to see if its done. He knows I couldn’t always do this. He knows I always longed to do this.

And after five years, my family knows that Thanksgiving happens at Rich and Sheila’s. In that intimate little history book the Seiler family is writing, the Thanksgiving page has our name on it.

A Game of Sorry! After Dinner. Thanksgiving, 2010.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, as we sit around the table, digesting and playing a game with the kids, I imagine what my niece and nephews will remember about their childhood Thanksgivings at our house. Maybe they’ll remember the neighbors’ roosters crowing, or gathering acorns and pine cones on a walk through the neighborhood. Maybe they’ll remember that we don’t have a Wii. Maybe they’ll remember seeing me wipe a tear on my apron, happiness overfilling me until it slips out from my eyes.

I hope they’ll remember that their auntie smiled big the whole day as her home sheltered family, the sage-and-turkey smells of a feast, and joy.

11 And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you. 

Deuteronomy 26:11 (KJV)

Linking up with Bonnie Gray, with gratitude. Won’t you stop by? 



  1. Love, love, love this Sheila. Have a GREAT DAY tomorrow – and let that happiness slip right on out.

  2. Thank you, Diana. I couldn’t stop it if I tried.

    Wishing you a blessed Thanskgiving, too.

  3. Sheila, I feel like I’m safe to say this here (I hope): I’m jealous. I am so jealous. Jealous that your family wants to see you. After saying some horrible things to me, my Dad left to go to Oklahoma to spend the holiday with my brother and his family. My sister, who works for my brother and lives in a house he owns, was invited by a text that said, “if you are coming, please bring…”, which made her feel really special. Charles and I were not invited at all. The first Thanksgiving after losing Mom (a holiday that I have spent without her maybe a handful of times) and we will be alone. I am so glad that she is not here to see my father and my brother being so cruel and petty, but I have to say that she would not be surprised. And Charles’ family was already a mess (the ones that are close by, anyway). I’m pretty sure that if I could just do the holiday online, I would be surrounded by loving friends and family, but it doesn’t work that way. I know we are not supposed to covet, but I can’t seem to help myself. I hope you will forgive me.

  4. Oh, oh, Carolyn. Safe, yes, absolutely. I’m humbled by your transparency here.

    Can you get to Orange County, CA? I mean it.

    I am so, so sorry that this first holiday without your mother is bringing extra hurts to you. Praying for you to feel His comfort and love right through to your bones.

  5. Oh, Sheila, you’ve written such a touching piece. The more I read the more a tear threatened, and then when I got to your words wondering what your niece and nephew would remember about Thanksgivings in your home, and about wiping away a tear with your apron, and your joy — well, then I needed an apron on which to wipe my own tear. You and your story and your heart and your joy have blessed me richly today.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


  6. Sheila, if I had the time and money to be in CA, I would already be in Oceanside with my best friend (but would make the drive to see you too). Oklahoma was a much closer, easier alternative, but without an invite…

    I appreciate your prayers. I feel the prayers of the saints on my behalf. They keep me going!

  7. Thank you, Linda. Happy Thanksgiving. From my soggy apron to yours.

  8. Carolyn,
    Oceanside is only about an hour away! When you do make that trip, we’ll visit. 🙂

  9. Our family also plays games after the dinner. We enjoy sorry, flinch or scrabble. Lots of fun with laughter and smiles. Perhaps a bit late, but always on time, Thanksgiving in a real home!

  10. That’s it exactly, Hazel!

  11. *sigh*

    This is absolutely dreamy. I’m so glad you’re getting to enjoy the Thanksgivings of your dreams after years of not being able to. Have fun, and when you gather those acorns and pinecones, think of me.

    Happy Thanksgiving! Grace and peace to you and yours.

  12. Deidra, it’s like a dream come true 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Hi Sheila! What a fabulous way to meet you — as hostess to a lifegiving place for Thanksgiving! You really encouraged me because I got married in my 30’s and didn’t have my first son until I was 35. My second son just turned 2, so the hosting life is very new for me. It’s really a dream come true. I second Deirdra’s comment. Thank you so much for sharing this post in the Faith Jam!

  14. Bonnie,
    Thank you. The best is yet to be.

    For me, for you….for all of us.