Nye Beach, Newport, Oregon.
This month's topic is: Thankfulness.
Every year, my father's side of the family gathers together on the Oregon coast for Thanksgiving.
The drive always starts like this: the high desert and Starbucks. Lots and lots of Starbucks.
Leaving the high-desert valley, junked up on coffee, ready for the long drive southwest: to the ocean we go.
From the cliff side, the home overlooks the Pacific. It's a home of love. There's no other way I can describe it. Our history is seeped in those walls; it's our safe place: we know we all belong there.
My great-grandmother, Margaret. Could these photos be any more amazing? She died when I was young, but I have some memories of her and I know, through family, through our stories, how kind she was. And stubborn. And strong. She always sat at that table, smoking. She's also shown here sharing photographs to her grandson, my cousin. We still have all these photo albums in the house and we all look at them every year now (in fact, we have similar photos of US looking at albums. And so it continues..)
Norma in her chair with the wall of family beside her. There, we have pictures of our ancestors and even framed letters. Our children now get measured, just as we did. My daughter is shown here being measured last year.
The steep trail from great-grandma's down to the beach, Oregon coast.
Last year, my niece, who was only four and who lives a seven hour drive from this place, said with a sigh when she walked through the door of great-grandma's place,
"Ahhh. We're home."
They know it in their bones. They know this is where they're from, too. Where our family stays connected, even if we're far apart.
Our family: beach time, bonfires. Love. Oregon Coast.
I'm not saying my family is perfect. Nothing's perfect. But we're family.
We spend a very long weekend together playing games, laughing, drinking, sitting around the fire. We walk to the beach. We debate politics and religion. We eat the family traditional potato casserole. We drink some more. The kids run. We cry.
We go around in a circle before we eat and every.single.person shares what happened/their big news of the year. Even the young ones get a turn. Their voices are heard. (Usually for the longest!)
Afterward our meal, we usually get a special private concert thrown by my two pre-teen cousins who are fantastic musicians. They both play piano and one plays the violin. They each get a turn performing for us and this is something I especially love. And will especially miss. They're crazy talented and S even writes/composes his own beautiful music.
We love each other...regardless of how crazy we are, because we're part of one another.
Norma, my cousin, who will be very missed this Thanksgiving, as she passed away this year.
Some of us won't be at the family gathering this year. We're in Myanmar. My cousin, E, is in Australia studying. N is bringing new life into this world (any day now!); still, no doubt: family will also be thinking of those we've lost this year. And those lost years before.
Name magnets I made for each of our family members last year at Thanksgiving. I knew we were moving to Myanmar soon after; my way of showing gratitude + love to my family was making all these crazy magnets.
This morning, I mentioned to her that Thanksgiving is next week. Her big, steely blue eyes got wide; a small gasp escaped. And then I saw in her face what I felt: this heavy recognition that we would not all be together and we'd have to find our own way to celebrate.(And we will. I'm hopeful we have some friends coming around...)
Yet, I am just grateful we had the last six years in the US so we could be at most of the gatherings (except when we lived on the East Coast). I am grateful the F knows the importance of our family Thanksgivings and despite being young, it's clear to me she realizes how special it is.
I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my great-grandmother who kept us together, who taught us what family means.
If any of you (my dear, crazy family) are reading this: I love you and I miss you.
I have my Japanese Lanterns here (I shipped them) and if we have a dinner, they will be right in the middle of the table. I'm lucky you're my family.
In honor of my family, I wrote a poem (sort-of) from the perspective of my great-grandmother. I had posted an excerpt of it here. It's called "Into the Fire."
This month, I’m honored to be linked-up with my sister flyer, the very talented photographer, Gail Haile, of New York. Please follow this hyperlink to her gorgeous page, Haile Fine Photography, and read her lovely post about practicing courage.