I had big plans to kick off the holiday season of 2004. I would spend Thanksgiving alone at home, with True Crime TV reruns and a frozen turkey dinner.
I was single at the time; my family was scattered across the country. What’s a girl to do?
After years of moving from state to state as a young journalist grasping every opportunity to move up the ladder, I was accustomed to solitary holiday meals. (By “solitary” I do mean “lonely.”)
My newly acquired friend and neighbor, DeAnna, refused to accept that I would be content to muddle through, maybe watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” in my pajamas while the rest of the world sat around family-packed tables, laughing and gorging on once-a-year side dishes and desserts.
“Why don’t you join me at my father’s house for the holiday?” DeAnna urged me over coffee.
“I can’t impose like that. That is your family dinner,” I said, imagining myself awkwardly sitting between a couple of aunts who couldn’t stand each other.
“You don’t get it,” she laughed, “It’s my father’s ‘Thanksgiving for orphans’.”
Apparently, every year since DeAnna’s parents split, her father, Jerry, hosted Thanksgiving at his home. Except for DeAnna, everyone at the table was a lonely, single misfit just like me.
Upon learning this, I was suddenly enthusiastic about going! It’s one thing to be the odd man out at a family holiday gathering, but attending a feast with a bunch of other lonely, pathetic souls sounded heavenly to me.
I whipped up my mother’s famous pecan pie, dressed in something comfy, yet stylish and headed to Jerry Moss’s house.
He greeted me at the door with a hug. My face fluttered as I tried to hold back tears. That simple gesture relieved me of the terrible aloneness that can settle in when you are on your own during the holidays.
There were about ten of us crowded around Jerry’s dining room table. We laughed, we reminisced about Thanksgivings past – we were like this haphazard family of misfits.
Our shared plight bonded us together as brothers and sisters. I felt like The Grinch with his heart growing after that encounter with Cindy Lou Who. I suddenly realized that what makes a family a family is the bond that ties the people in it together.
We spent hours playing cards and board games, listening to classic carols, surrounded by Jerry’s well-appointed Christmas decorations.
Jerry Moss passed away a few years later, but I will carry him in my heart for the rest of my life. His simple gesture, inviting people he knew might be lonely on a major holiday into his home – some of them strangers – was such a powerful reminder of the real meaning of the season: the giving of love.
Open your heart, then open your door to the misfits. They will feel like family around a holiday table faster than that pumpkin pie disappears after dinner. And, your heart may even grow three sizes that day.