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Warmest Regards: Cherish your prime time days

While there are so many skills we need to successfully navigate through life, one of the most important is the ability to accept change.

Yet, that skill is one of the hardest to master. And even if we do manage to accept change, when our circumstances change we have to do it again.

It’s definitely not a once and done thing.

One change I’ve had to accept rears its head during every holiday when I have to accept the fact that I no longer have a big family to gather at my house.

Thanksgiving was always “my holiday.” I knew once my daughters had children of their own it was no longer feasible for them to be at my house for Christmas. So I clung to having everyone for Thanksgiving.

This year, I knew I had to accept the very real fact that I might be alone for Thanksgiving. With kids and grandkids scattered around the country and with their own crowded calendars I learned to make my own Thanksgiving.

There’s an expression I like that says “Friends are the family that we pick for ourselves.” That is so true.

My longtime friend Kay and her adult son, Christopher, are definitely like family to me. For the past few years they came to my house to celebrate Thanksgiving with me.

This year, their son bought a house of his own and was having Kay and Chris at their house for Thanksgiving.

“It won’t seem like Thanksgiving if we don’t share it with you,” said Chris.

That led me to establish a new Thanksgiving tradition called Left Over Thanksgiving.

While Kay and Chris went to their son’s house David and I celebrated Thanksgiving by making a big turkey and all the trimmings.

I was surprised at how nice it felt.

The next day we had our Left Over Turkey celebration with Kay and Chris. It was a new learning experience for me as I adjusted timing and long-standing cooking techniques.

But it worked. It worked so well that they asked if we could make Left Over Turkey feast an annual tradition.

See, by accepting change and adjusting to changing circumstances we all felt like we didn’t lose a thing. Instead, we gained a new tradition.

That night, I watched the Netflix movie “Feast of the Seven Fishes.”

What I liked about the movie was how everyone who wanted to be there was welcome. It was a small house but they made it work because the important thing was being together while keeping tradition alive.

It made me think of my mother-in-law Mildred who always created her special ethnic Christmas Eve feast.

Flooded with warm and loving memories of years ago I challenged my two daughters to recall everything that was part of my in-law’s ethnic feast.

“I could never forget it,” said daughter Maria. “It was one of the best memories of my childhood.”

She recalled sauerkraut soup with mushrooms served with a symbolic communion wafer topped with honey. The tradition involved passing wafers around the table so everyone could break off a piece. It was symbolic of the one bread, one body communion ritual.

Through the years that Christmas Eve ritual added ham and kielbasa but my favorite was still my mother-in-law’s homemade pierogies.

Maria could still recall every item, including beets and beet-colored hard boiled egg, pig’s feet in jelly and a poppy seed concoction that only appeared on Christmas Eve.

There were plenty of homemade deserts, including poppy seed rolls and nut rolls.

The next day our family switched from a Slovak menu to an Italian one when we went to my mother’s house for homemade chicken cutlets, Italian spinach, spaghetti and Nana’s Italian cookies.

As my daughters and I thought of all that incredible homemade food, we realized how much labor went into those meals. No wonder we were bone weary at the end of a preparation day.

Without a doubt, those holiday feasts from yesteryear were about more than delicious food. They were more about family love and upholding traditions.

Yes, they were a lot of work and days of preparation were quite exhausting.

But here’s the thing. Even with all the labor involved we knew how blessed we were to have those holiday get-togethers.

Without a doubt those days for me were my prime time, the best holidays of my life.

While they are gone, they remain in vivid memory as a testimony of family love.

Ironically, the best times for many of us are the times when all the kids are still around the table and life revolves around family.

Did we take those celebrations for granted? In all of our busyness did we realize we were having prime family time?

Or, were we too busy with making it happen that we didn’t stop to realize the gift of togetherness we were being given?

Speaking for myself, I knew then that every family get-together was a gift, one that would not be mine forever.

But I wasn’t prepared for the change in circumstances when loved ones died and others scattered across the country.

Accepting the new reality meant doing two things: Creating new traditions and new memories while letting old memories warm us, knowing how blessed we were as a caring family.

If you can still have your own prime time celebrations, cherish every one of those times.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.