Thanksgiving by Dr. DebraI’m writing two blogs for today. The one about my cats was written several days ago. However, something happened after my Thanksgiving dinner that I knew I needed to write and share with our blog readers.
This year my extended family celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother’s. Like all our family holidays, there was plenty of food, love, laughter, catching up, and retelling of old stories. Holidays with my family are always a blessing.
As the day neared the end, my youngest niece, four-year-old Kimberly, cuddled on the couch with me. Of my three nieces, Kimberly looks the most like me, and (as my aunt reminded me today) has the same high energy level and boisterous, out-going personality that I did at that age. (Somewhere along the line, I lost that high energy and boisterous personality, although I’m still outgoing.) She has the same thick blond hair, blue eyes, and (unfortunately) my nose.
Early in the day, Kimberly had changed out of her holiday clothes and into a Minnie Mouse costume. Now as we sat together, she dangled one of her slightly grubby bare feet on my lap. Seizing her toes, I began to play, “This Little Piggy” with her. Once we finished one foot, she demanded I do the other. Then I switched to “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” crawling my fingers up her arm and making her laugh.
After our second rendition, a memory hit me, piercing me with sadness, and changing my happy feelings to melancholy.
Two months ago, I’d played these very same games with some children in the shelter at Nichols State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. One child in particular, two-year-old Ja-Niya had become very dear to me. She’d singled me out as someone special. In her childish wisdom she recognized our soul bond before I did. Whenever she caught sight of me, with a big smile she’d hold out her arms, then give a delighted belly laugh. Then she’d cling to me, not as a child who takes a fancy to someone who plays with her, but with a deep sense of “it’s right we’re together.”
The night before I left, I’d spent an hour with her, cuddling her, playing games, and holding her until she fell asleep. During that time, I’d often held back tears, hating to leave her, wishing I could bring her home with me.
Playing with Kimberly’s pale toes, I remembered tickling a dark-skinned set of piggys and the deep belly laugh of a tiny girl, and I missed Ja-Niya with a fierce ache.
Where is Ja-Niya today? Is her family celebrating? Are they all right? Faces flashed in my mind, all the people I’d worked with while I was in Louisiana. What kind of Thanksgiving are they having?
Some might be having good holidays. For example, the extended family of twenty who went to live in a small town in Iowa where they’d been offered three houses and jobs. I’ll bet their neighbors or others in the community dropped off food for them. They probably have so much extra, it’s spilling out of their kitchen.
I hope that has happened for many, many of the evacuees.
Other families probably gave thanks for their blessings, and also grieved their losses. For they’ve found both in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
For those who lost everything, including family members, Thanksgiving probably was hard day. I hope they had others around them who reached out with love.
Even though I’d already been feeling thankful for all the blessings in my life, thoughts of my little Ja-Niya and the others made my gratitude so much deeper. I have so much to be thankful for--family, friends, my health, material possessions.
And, I realized, two more blessings: One, that my family members, friends, members of my karate studio, and my WNP sisters contributed financial and emotional support so I could leave my practice for two weeks and travel on my own to Louisiana. How wonderful to have those kind of people in my life!
The other is that I had a chance to work with about a thousand evacuees as well as members of the community of Houma and Thibodaux--an experience I’ll never forget. In many ways, they gave me far more than I gave them. I only wish they could know that they are in my thoughts and my prayers.