Thanksgiving is, and always has been, my favorite holiday. No hustle and bustle, no worry that gifts will be appreciated; no racing from place to place to make sure everyone gets a moment of time. I have lived in the Eastern Panhandle for almost 20 years now, but each year, I travel four hours to my hometown in Wetzel County, West Virginia. I look forward to this trip all year long and by November 15th, I can’t control my excitement. I love going home.

More than Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, I cherish the one evening that truly feels like I am home. The evening always includes my mom and two sisters, my step-father, and my (currently unofficial) brother and sister in law, as well as my own husband and children. While relationship changes brought some new faces to these meetings, those who gather now are those who truly belong. We laugh so much that laugh lines are visible and our stomachs hurt. The stories are generally the same ones we cackled over last year, but there is always new material as we all seem to live surreal lives. In these moments, no matter what happens outside, we scoff at Thomas Wolfe. We ignore the signs of aging in ourselves, the physical changes to our mother land with the fracking rigs popping up all over, the dark tendrils of substance abuse gaining hold in even this quiet, simple place. We ignore the world around us, and in those magical moments, we all go home again.

This year a simple event reminded me that what is gone is truly gone. Thanksgiving dinner has always been on Thursday at 5 PM, sharp. The same faces meet in the same place and share the same foods. The very sameness is one of the joys of the holiday. My grandmother’s house has looked the same for as long as I can remember. The only thing different is my grandmother herself. She, like us all, has been caught up in the march of time. Once a woman who seemed to have planted herself on this earth for all eternity, so smart, so strong, so capable… the reality is my grandmother has very limited time left with us.

This year, while I was sitting across from Grandma, she asked if I had told her I wanted “those dolls.” On the far wall are three display cases with her treasured glass dolls which she has collected from several sources.  I am not a collector, so I thought it was very unlikely I had ever asked her for any dolls. But she remembered that, since I was 16 years old, Gone with the Wind was my favorite story, and she had bought the Bradford Exchange collection with the intention of giving them to me one day. Unfortunately, I am aware that she is passing things down while she still has the ability.  I took the dolls, and I was happy to do so.  While I’ll never be a collector, those seven dolls are among my greatest treasures.

Thomas Wolfe said,  “…you can’t go home again….back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” The truth of these words rings in my heart when I look at those dolls, but they also remind me to make sure I am truly present in every moment.

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