“Memories of a Family Gathering,” Nov. 26, 2018

We stood on the curb waving goodbye as they all drove away, carload after carload, pieces of a beautiful puzzle that forms our big, blended family. Picture Noah and his wife, after 40 days and nights afloat in a flood, watching the animals hightail it off the ark.

My husband and I share five kids, four who are married, and six grandkids. Some live only minutes away. Others traveled for hours just to spend a few days together as a family.

We kept waving until the last car drove out of sight. Then we went inside, put up our feet and became again just the two of us.

We’re good at being just the two of us. He’s sleeping in front of the TV. And I’m reviewing my favorite moments from the past few days. Here in no special order are some highlights:

_ On Thanksgiving day, we went out to dinner, 16 of us, to a restaurant where we were, in my estimation, the largest and best-looking bunch in the place.

_ The day after Thanksgiving, I roasted two turkey breasts and made mashed potatoes and stuffing because “everybody” wanted leftovers. Just before dinner, I was wishing we had another pie for dessert and a centerpiece to replace the one that had died on the table. My daughter read my mind, as she often seems to do, and showed up with a fresh centerpiece and an apple pie. And “everybody” said the leftovers were better than the restaurant’s buffet.

_ Sam, my husband’s youngest, who’s a graphic designer, gave art lessons to his four nephews and two nieces who drew and colored for hours and formed a fan club for “Uncle Sam.”

_ While the kids were drawing, my daughter and daughter-in-law enjoyed a rare chance to talk without interruption. They, too, joined the Uncle Sam fan club.

_ We drove by the beach with my oldest and his bride and saw their faces light up as we passed the lighthouse where they were married two months ago.

_ I went out to lunch with my new daughter-in-law and we talked about books and babies and other fine things.

_ My husband and I offered to host a “movie and pizza night” for the grandkids to give their parents a chance to go out. We had no idea they’d take us up on it. At one point I left Papa Mark watching “Incredibles 2” with the kids while I refilled the popcorn bowl. When I came back, the kids had buried him alive in a pile of pillows and were diving on the pile.

_ I played a trick on my youngest, who always loved to play tricks on me. Everyone had gone to bed, except us. I said goodnight and asked him to turn off the lights before he turned in. Then I hid at the top of the stairs. When he flipped off the stairwell lights from below, I flipped them back on. He waited a second, then flipped them off again. And I flipped them back on. We repeated this several times. Lights off, lights on, pause, repeat. Finally, he muttered, “What the …?” and ran up the stairs to find me. Then we both laughed so hard we woke up the whole house.

_ Six-year-old Wiley and I were sitting together (Wiley calls it “cozying”) watching the other kids run wild about the room. He pointed to Archer, who is 2 and seriously cute, and said, “Nana, can I go hug him?”

“Sure,” I said. So he did. And Archer grinned and followed him back to the sofa where the three of us cozied together.

Nothing is happier than a house filled with laughter and love and leftovers. And nothing is quieter than that house after the family that filled it has said their goodbyes and gone their separate ways.

As my mother would say, we had ourselves quite a time. We may take a few days (or weeks) to recover. But we’ll treasure the memories of being a family together.

And we’ll pray for the strength to do it again.



  1. Thanksgiving was the first without our Mom this year. She passed in June. Mom and Dad always made family first. We were four daughters, married, who all now have children and grandchildren. 40 in all celebrating Thanksgiving together. It was a joyful day. Yes we missed Mom, but could feel her with us. We knew she was smiling and enjoying all of us together. We know she would have called her sisters the next day to tell them how everyone was together for Thanksgiving. Thank you Mom and Dad, for teaching us the importance of a close and loving family.

  2. Everett Tolton says

    Happy Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful to be able to enjoy family and friends. Not everyone learned how to do that. You have to teach yourself how to love, laugh and revel in the moment. It has taken me years to get there, but as I have aged I find myself loving life and my family more and more. Thanks for reminding us just how great life really is.

  3. Kate Sciacca says

    Thanks for having us all to your place for laughter, leftovers and love :-). Often you write “I wish you could have seen it” – well, we saw it all just fine 🙂

    Now on to Advent and the Christmas season… it all comes around faster every year ;-). But ends too quickly.

  4. Pamela Dailey says

    I always love your stories. I love this one so much. I thought this year I would be spending the Thanksgiving holiday in the hospital because my husband was ill. It was our two grandchildren’s first thanksgiving. I was so happy when he got to go home on Wednesday evening. The holiday was so special for us. God bless you and your family.

  5. Nancy Durein says

    I’ve done about a dozen loads of laundry in the last week, made 5 beds…some of them twice. Put away tinker toys, blow up beds placed on yoga mats, and cleaned up cranberry sauce from the carpet. (my husband did that one!) Taken bags and bags stuff out to the trash or recycling bin, and I’m exhausted. But I’d do it all over again tomorrow in an instant!

  6. Hi Sharon,
    I always enjoy your articles. We saw your oldest son, Josh, on Blue Bloods recently. He is a really good actor. You must be very proud of him. Have a Merry Christmas.

  7. Carol Miller says

    I have loved reading your “letters” to your friends so loved you for many many years….since before you losing your dear husband and have travelled many similar roads with you thru the years. As we have moved to “Kansas City” area of all places for 11 years, my best friend has mailed me faithfully your articles ..although just recently I have found your articles on-line…although I haven’t told her as I treasure getting her regular letters with your columns! We try to get together 2-3 times/year to smell each other’s necks and of course talk on the phone often. We are hoping to come to Monterey “sometime”, and last week when we squeezed in a surprise visit said, “wouldn’t it be fun if Sharon hosted a “friends of Sharon” gathering and …..have together fun with the many who love you and to “smell your neck”. :-))

  8. Glenda Mathews says

    Beautifully written! Our Thanksgiving was much the same, and we enjoyed every minute.

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