Last week, a childhood friend of mine posted a very discouraged status on Facebook, talking about the bitter fights between divorced people over the holidays. I felt bad for her because Doug and I are very blessed at the way things have turned out for our respective families.
As we have for the past several years, we celebrated Thanksgiving Day at the home of his older stepson, Corey, who is married with two small children. Doug's ex-wife, who is the mother of his two adult stepsons, is usually there, along with her mother, as well as assorted members of Corey's wife's family. (I apologize for the lack of pictures from this celebration--Doug was too busy frying turkeys to remember his camera.)
Then, some time over the long weekend, we cook at our house and have Thanksgiving number two. It started out simply enough--when I got divorced, I let my kids, then in their teens, spend Thanksgiving with their dad because he had an extended family and I didn't. We would then have them over a day or two later so they could celebrate with us and have some of the traditional foods I have always made.
The funny thing is that this event has grown every year--and it now includes my ex-husband and his second wife, along with some very good friends and Alex's fiancee's parents, Monica and Earl, who will someday be family in reality but already are in spirit.
This year, we seated 14 people in our tiny kitchen, which included a second table, normally stored under the guest bed. Doug suggested putting a second small table in the living room, but I told him there was no way we were going to split up this happy group:
Ashleigh and Doug decided it was easier just to stand up:
My stepson Jesse and his girlfriend brought the total to 16, but since they arrived late, they sat in seats vacated by others who went out to stand by our outdoor fire:
After dinner, we all gathered for a group photo. Doug put the camera on a timer so he could be in the picture:
In addition to 16 people, we had two yellow Labs, two terriers, an orange tabby cat, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Just kidding about the partridge, but we did have an amazing group of people whose lives have intersected in some improbable but wonderful ways. Explaining the relationships to Jesse's girlfriend Katie was interesting.
Like the fact that Martin and Doug, who refer to each other as "brothers from different mothers," are the best of buddies but know each other only because Jenn and I have been best friends since the 1970s--when we met through our ex-husbands....
I call Jesse my stepson, but he's really my stepson once removed because he's actually Doug's stepson from a previous marriage. It really doesn't matter because he's a terrific young man whom I'm very happy to have in my life.
So, to everyone who bemoans the breakup of the nuclear family in America, take a closer look. I'm not recommending divorce--I'm just saying that we should be happy for all of the people who end up being "family."
Like my son, Alex, and his "cousin" Steve, who isn't really his cousin at all but is my friend Jenn's son. The two boys were born 11 months apart and grew up playing Ninja Turtles and Ghost Busters together. Now, Steve's married, and Alex is engaged.
Funny thing--Lauren and Ashleigh kind of look like sisters. In spirit, I think they are.
So, this year, I am thankful for a husband who is a great cook and brings everyone together for awesome food. And I'm thankful for all of our family members--biological and adopted.