The day before Thanksgiving may not conjure up the same sentiment or memories as a snow-laden Christmas Eve, but the eve of our national day of gratitude is nevertheless a notable day on the calendar.
Often considered one of the busiest travel days of the year, Thanksgiving Eve historically sees long lines at airports and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads. At a radio station where I once worked, we used to call it “get-away-day” – and our traffic helicopter pilot would colorfully describe the endless sea of headlights and taillights on New York City highways.
At the risk of stating the obvious, whether by plane, train or car, everybody is going somewhere. And what makes the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so special is that for many people, that “somewhere” is home.
Of course, “home” means different things to different people. We may live in one city but consider “home” to be our town of origin. Home may be a house, a farm, or an apartment. They come in all sizes and locations. I have a friend whose “home” this year is a recreational vehicle. Touring the country, Jacque and her family are in a different town or city every week.
Home for me these days is Capstone Court in Colorado Springs. But when I was in high school, home was Baldwin, a small town on Long Island’s South Shore. I remember wrapping up basketball practice on a cold Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. It had been a tough workout and our coach announced he was giving us Thursday and Friday off for the holiday. We cheered.
Our school ran two 6 PM busses for athletes, one down Grand Avenue and the other down Milburn Road – the two main drags in town. You could ask the driver to stop anywhere along the route. I took the Milburn line and requested the driver drop me at Cottage Place, the side street closest to our home.
Stepping off the bus that night, the icy wind quickly cut through my coat. I slung my two bags over my shoulder, put my head down and proceeded to cut through the neighbor’s yard directly behind our home. It was very dark. Approaching the fence bordering the two properties, I looked up to see every window in the back of our home filled with warm light. My eyes immediately went to our two kitchen windows.
Standing in the window was my mom, and beside her was my father. As it turned out, they were cleaning and peeling vegetables in the sink, preparing for the next day’s Thanksgiving feast. My other family members were also there helping out.
It’s been 35 years since that Thanksgiving Eve. Though in the family for nearly 45 years, the home is now under new ownership. Both of my parents are in Heaven. But I can still see the warm light silhouetted against the dark sky – and my loving family safely ensconced inside waiting to welcome me home.
I sometimes wonder what our children will remember about “home” years from now. It probably won’t be the meals or the furniture or many of the things we tend to prioritize. Instead, I’m quite sure it will be how we made them feel, the love they saw and experienced – and all those intangibles that all the money in the world will never buy.
“Every house where love abides, and friendship is a guest,” wrote the poet Henry Van Dyke, “Is surely home, and home sweet home, for there the heart can rest.”
It was King Solomon who noted, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:3-4).
There is always a reason, and it’s always in season, to be thankful. Thanksgiving is also a time to appreciate the “precious and pleasant riches” inside our homes – notably our spouses, children and extended family.
Photo from Shutterstock.