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Murray: Time with family and friends always makes memories

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What do burned dinner rolls, board games, bedazzled sweaters and missing grandparents have in common? These are but a few of my Thanksgiving memories.

One year, my parents hosted the extended family’s Thanksgiving gathering, even though my husband and I couldn’t make it as it was his family’s turn to “get us.” I guess we missed a memorable one as someone put a glass baking dish on a hot burner on the stove and it exploded all over their kitchen. The relatives still joke about it, and I still simultaneously wish I could’ve seen it and am glad I didn’t.

Skip to some year in the future, and dinner rolls were forgotten in the oven, burned to a crisp. You’d think we may have learned our lesson after an explosion and a charring … but no. Another year, another engrossing conversation, and you guessed it … black-topped dinner rolls, once again.

After the big family meal (and honestly, my favorite meal ever … with or without charred dinner rolls), it seems we always had some board game going. Scrabble was a favorite when I was a little girl, and we played it from time to time when I had kids of my own as well. We weren’t as cutthroat in our Scrabble-playing as my grandma was, but I think her competitive nature probably helped me with my love of words to this day.

Time spent with grandparents was a common theme, no matter where the time was spent. In my mom’s case, one year between Thanksgiving dinner and supper, she helped her grandkids find the perfect Christmas sweater from her vast collection in the armoire in my sister’s childhood bedroom. Although three grandsons and one granddaughter were most likely searching for an “ugly Christmas sweater,” my mom took painstaking efforts to show them her favorites, grinning from ear to ear while holding up a snazzy snowman sweater that she thought someone would love. There sat the five of them on my sister’s double bed in that tiny room with Grandma smack dab in the middle of them. A whole house with rooms galore, but there was nowhere else she would rather be.

From heart-warming to heart-stopping, moments with grandparents continued in a year when we stayed in town for Thanksgiving at my husband’s parents’ house. Even though it was a shorter trek to only drive across town, it seemed we were always running late. We were shocked to discover that we were the first to arrive that year and let ourselves in the front door as usual. The TV was on and the food smelled amazing … however, we were the ONLY ones there. No Grandma. No Grandpa. We called throughout the house, and as the front door opened, we thought the mystery was solved. Not so. It was my brother-in-law’s family, joking about our family beating them there for a change.

Where in the world were Grandma and Grandpa, anyway? Who leaves their house open with Thanksgiving guests coming and food in the oven? What began as a conundrum became more of a serious worry. After what seemed like a very long time, that front door opened again and in walked my father-in-law. “Your mother’s in the hospital,” he announced to everyone in the living room. Apparently, she hadn’t been feeling well and had fallen, prompting my father-in-law to call for an ambulance. He went straight to the food to check on it as we asked him questions galore. The rest of the day was surreal as more family members arrived, and the news was met with almost as much shock as we had initially experienced.

We ate our Thanksgiving meal, because even in a strange situation, people are always hungry. Carload by carload, we went to the hospital and visited my mother-in-law, who seemed to be in very good spirits, despite her maladies. I felt so bad about how she missed such a delicious dinner, but she just smiled and said it’s never been her favorite meal, anyway.

Whatever you do on Thanksgiving creates moments to be thankful for. Talking so much that you forget about the food; spending time with your loved ones around a board game, armoire or even in a hospital … that time spent with family is priceless. Enjoy yours … and skip the dinner rolls.

Michelle Sprout Murray is a writer who lives in Mason City. She may be reached at sproutmurray@gmail.com.

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