Janell Burley Hofmann, November 27, 2013

Since I was a little girl I remember loving the entire week of Thanskgiving – the anticipation of a large family meal, the start of the holiday season, the purpose of it all. When I was a teenager it was always a short week of school filled with early release days, a break from sports between seasons and a lull between school grading quarters. Even as a college student athlete, I was always able to spend time at home before returning to my commitments. And now, as a mother of five, I can feel myself basking in this tradition of letting go – we cuddle up for movies on weeknights, eat a few more treats, let the homework routines dip – we back off. Thanksgiving and the days that surround it, always feel like a giant exhale for me. A time to go inward and release the intensity that I so desperately rely on to fuel me forward every other day.

In this beautiful space, I am connected back to my stories of home and youth and beginnings and I often reflect on how that story continues forward. Last night, the seven of us sat around the table enjoying a large spaghetti dinner. It feels rare (and special) to have this Tuesday night with everyone home, not just to eat all together, but to linger. The kids were laughing and chatting. They don’t know it, but can I feel them soften too. I stop to witness, observe, this fleeting and powerful moment of family. It looked and sounded so ordinary, but I felt a sharp, fast forward feeling in it. They are growing. It is changing. Of course they are so very here right now, but they are already leaving. And even though I know that teaching them to go is my ultimate job description, only sometimes, is that actual possibility revealed.

I hope when they are grown, when they return, that they always want to sit like this, with us, with each other – casually, lovingly. I know it sounds sentimental – a classic, predictable story of gratitude and thanks. And maybe it is. But we don’t get to create family from the end, after they go. We create it all along. In the Tuesday nights of life, where we usually fight over the sharpest pencil or biggest hunk of lasagna and hustle to drive the carpool or cram assigned reading in before our television show begins. But instead, once in a while, we eat hot fudge sundaes under blankets and fall asleep on each other way past our bedtimes, because the exact recipe for family is a mystery. And creating tomorrow today can be pretty heavy life’s work to carry.

And even though this week we’ve slowed, we do keep moving. Today we’ll donate winter jackets and bags of groceries, we’ll pick up pies and see a movie. Tomorrow we’ll run a race, watch a parade, beg each other to hurry up in the shower, and then we’ll gather with our people to celebrate infinite lists of humble thanks. And even though this day is a scramble too, I feel so awake, so aware. I am called, guided to walk, listen, hold. And when I do, the pieces of me are aligned and connected, from the start to the untold ahead. And in that access to all time, more than ever, I am only today. And suddenly, I’m out of questions and wonder and worry, suddenly I know why this week is always a gift, because I allow and nurture and welcome myself home. And despite change and growth and time, home is within me. And it’s easy to forget that. But I’m thankful to be back.

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