November is not my favorite month around here and it never has been. December has Christmas, January has the freshness of a new year, as yet unspoiled by news headlines and personal tragedies. February ...well there's not much you can say about February in New England except it's short. But from March through May is gorgeous with flowers and longer days and hope, and the summers are the target of vacationers from all over the world, and our autumn displays are breathtaking. But November....November sits there with its piles of leaves gathered around its feet and it reminds me of a few "mornings after the party" which I'd rather forget. And now there has been a whole year of being a superannuated orphan and here it is again. I'm not ready.
I am endlessly grateful that both my sons will be home for the holiday. Son Number One has invited two friends for the feast, and his girlfriend will arrive the day after for a visit. We have a priest friend flying in from England for the week, which will be a treat, and although I haven't yet counted the number that will be gathered around my table, it will certainly be well over a dozen. We have a "cozy" (real estate code for "tiny") house with one bathroom. I'm preparing an artistic sign for the bathroom door which will read "No Printed Material Allowed Beyond This Point" since we'll have eight people and one loo for several days. I have told my son to warn his friends that we are much closer to the Weasly home from the Harry Potter series than we are to Downton Abbey.
Amid all this cheerful chaos are the memories of missing friends and families. There were other Thanksgivings when the "other" English priest was here, the one after whom we named Son Number Two. And while my father-in-law will bring the world's best pies (seriously), my mother-in-law will be in her own world in the nursing home where we will visit her, but not really. There will be too many seats at the table which will feel empty, even though every chair will have an occupant.
Still, this is part of the lessons of aging. Learning how to let go and keep present those we love is a delicate balancing act. I'm getting fairly good at it, what with all the practice I've had, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.