Thanksgiving puts the spotlight on the fact that my wife and I are close to an empty nest. While the feathers have not quite cleared, weʼve had a taste of just the two of us and itʼs been a difficult adjustment.

I thought having the remote control under my permanent command would be a dream come true. Finding the leftovers from the night before was unthinkable a few years back. Now Iʼm not so sure if I like all that convenience. Older kids are such a pleasure to be around because they are starting to make sense and they begin to admit that we might have known a thing or two.

Our friends are filling in the kidless void and this year weʼll gather to enjoy Thanksgiving with them. We share the experience of our kids out in the world, without us to provide the rudder for their lives. Weʼve raised our kids at the same time, had to witness the pain and the triumphs, shared experienced that bring us closer. Misery —and success— loves company and you find out who your real friends are. Among us we have kids living in Portland, Sweden, Las Vegas, Buffalo, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Mt. Vernon, Washington. None will share the Thanksgiving table with us this year.

What we miss with our kids we make up for in the diversity of our friends: attorney, engineer, information officer, helicopter ski manufacturer, transit superintendent, advertising executive and several retirees. How can the conversation not be interesting? The diversity of our friends is also reflected in the diversity of our kids: nurse, dancers, filmmaker, teacher, singer. Never a dull moment when we are in the same room.

It helps that this crowd is a little nutty. We are long past pretension; you fetch your own beer and pour your own wine with these guys. Several years ago we gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving. In order to plan the meal, we decided to have a little pre-Thanksgiving get together, everyone to bring a little something to eat.

As is our custom, instead of the nibbles our good intentions dictated, everyone went overboard and a feast broke out in the middle of a snack. The wine flowed and toward the end of the meal, banter centered on “whoʼs not drinking” this week. One of the pundits snipped, “I liked you guys better when you were drinking.” To which several ladies replied, “We liked you better when we were drinking.”

At the end of the meal someone said, “I donʼt know why we are even planning this thing, everybody knows that weʼll end up making what we want and bringing it.” Of course, the meal was fabulous. I suppose if it wasnʼt, we wouldnʼt be planning to do it again this Thanksgiving.

Of the two meals, itʼs the pre-planning feast that I remember most clearly. Iʼm sure the Thanksgiving turkey was moist, the mashed potatoes plentiful and the desserts consumed in abandonment of any thoughts of “taking it easy” this holiday. It might be that Thanksgiving is any gathering of true friends, people you fought alongside in the trenches, no matter if it falls in November.

I have that, I am grateful for it.

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