When I was young, Mom would adorn the Thanksgiving table with all the staples - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce. And of course, pumpkin pie. (That was my favorite part, demonstrated by the one-and-a-half pies I scarfed down when I was 12. Moderation is often overrated.)
Dad would sit at the head, Mom to his right, and the rest of us four kids would fill in the rest of the seats at the dining room table. The burnt-orange curtains framed frosted windows of our white house, the pine trees changing with the color of the sun as time danced through the holiday.
Over the years, the table would slowly change. The additions to our family would bring new food, new experiences to the table.
My oldest sister, Rhonda, married first. Her husband, Pete, was a big Italian man with a ring on his pinky finger and owned every room he walked into. Starting that Thanksgiving in 1994, he brought his homemade, secret-recipe stuffing to the table. Even when he was sick and his time here was winding down, he wouldn't reveal the ingredients. It probably irritated him to no end that my mom would still serve her Stove Top stuffing alongside his. Of course, we took a scoop of each.
Right in order, my next oldest sibling, Bobby, fell in love with a redheaded girl in college. They would dash around the honeycomb floor kitchen, flinging peanut butter at each other, their love bright and exuberant.
Although they lived in Massachusetts for several years, Abby would bring healthful additions to the holiday table, which got tastier every year. Cardboard crusts transformed to tender, savory creations. I counted that as one of my Thanksgiving blessings.
My sister April eventually married a bass player named Mike. As he fixes everything but meals, she brought casseroles, her green bean casserole topped with layers of gooey, delicious cheese and crunchy dried onions.
She and Rhonda would take turns serving sweet potato casserole, layered with fluffed sweet potatoes and sugared pecans.
In the years between, transitions have taken place, and the table has changed again.
Rhonda and Pete's teenage daughter, Deanna, gives hilarious impersonations and leaves us in stitches, which is painfully delightful after a huge meal. Then she'll sit quietly and watch us with large eyes behind dark side bangs.
After Pete passed on, Geary now sits with us - not replacing Pete, but holding another spot at the table, and in our hearts. I imagine this year, his first Thanksgiving officially part of our family, he'll bring his sweet corn dish, perfectly peppered. Maybe some venison from hunting.
Bob and Abby's six kids will certainly fly around the house, their curly red hair bobbing and flashing around corners. The dining room has grown closer as tables have been added and expanded.
April and Mike will go to his family's celebration, but we'll get together at Christmas, when we'll hold the kids' hands walking up Candy Cane Lane in mittens and scarves.
Just as suddenly and starkly as seasons change when one day it is shockingly cold or the first warm breeze sweeps across your face, so it was when these changes came about.
Yet these changes melt into memory, just as snow gives way to the wet, velveted petal of the first spring flower that appears one day.
Regan is a government and politics reporter at the Sun-Gazette. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.