We completed an interstate move two and a half weeks before Thanksgiving — me looking forward to being closer to youngin’s and grand-youngin’s. Well, guess what? Thanksgiving 2012 turned out to be sans family and non-traditional.
My youngest offspring introduced the idea to help serve Thanksgiving Dinner at an addiction treatment center in our newly adopted city. Sounded like a great idea to me, as my oldest offspring was dining in another county with her father and in-laws. Moreover, this was the site where my youngest offspring had completed a treatment program and worked as a peer mentor and later on staff. Yes, there had been a relapse, which made it seem an even bigger positive that we could go there together. But we left it open.
A good plan. My husband and I arrived around 11:30 a.m. The place was awash with volunteers waiting three and four deep to wipe off tables, fold napkins with eating utensils, and keeping the desert station filled.
A full Thanksgiving spread was open to those in the treatment program, and anyone in the community who wanted to come. The community donated all of the food, and the kitchen workers from the treatment program prepared what didn’t arrive ready to serve from local restaurants.
By mid-afternoon the volunteer helpers began to thin out, and for the last two and a half hours my husband and I and a young man who was also volunteering for the first time kept things going. By 5 p.m. between 400 and 500 people had come through the doors. My husband was struck by the good manners and the gratitude expressed by literally everyone we served. I can say, unequivocally, that we enjoyed them all, especially the repeat diners whom we razzed.
My offspring didn’t show — one who had helped prepare the dinner one year ago, one who had excelled in the program and led others coming through it. I felt sad. I wished we could have all been there together. When we talked later that evening I learned of a solitary afternoon finishing a good book with a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. A good day, I was assured.
Ah, well. That was not my choice, but I had the where-with-all to not let it become about me. We had received a good look through the window of an organization devoted to healing addiction, and for a few hours had been part of it. We’d made friends and had a good time, creating our own “family” in a window of time. Throughout recovery, which is not necessarily a straight and narrow line, my loved one remains a part of it as well. That, folks, makes up one happy Thanksgiving.