thanksgiving – and the little things that aren’t little at all


So grateful for one of the best Thanksgivings ever, thanks to my Aunt Marilyn, Uncle Julie, Grandma and cousin Adam. Being in a place where BOTH of my children are not just welcome and loved but celebrated is more than enough to make this Mama thankful. And spinach squares to boot. What more could a girl ask for? Thank you, Auntie Marilyn. We love you!!

~ My Facebook status Thursday night


Our Thanksgiving plans had been in flux and ultimately, had fallen through. That wasn’t a bad thing, mind you. We were perfectly happy – dare I say excited – to have no one but our rag-tag little family for the holiday. None of the craziness that comes along with a houseful of guests, no pressure to be anywhere, no need to sit in hours of traffic. Just us.

But when my Aunt Marilyn called and asked us to come spend the day with her, well, we really couldn’t say no. “It will just be us,” she said. “Me, Uncle Julie, Cousin Adam and Ooma (my Grandma); that’s it. The kids aren’t coming until Friday.” The ‘kids’ are, of course in their mid-forties, but nonetheless, they – and we – will always be ‘the kids’.

And so it was that we packed up and headed off to Western Massachusetts for Thanksgiving.


I spoke to my dad when we got home. I tried to explain it – why it was all so perfect. “Ya know what it was more than anything, Pop?” I said, “It was that BOTH of my girls are so completely adored there – they love them to pieces, they respect them, they LISTEN to them.”

I told him about how, when we arrived, Uncle Julie gently guided Brooke into the den where they’d set out the toys for her. A magnetic building set and a castle with a bunch of figurines. “I know you like the castle, Brooke,” said Auntie Marilyn. “It’s very royal,” responded Brooke. And off she went.

“But Dad,” I said, “It’s not just that they put out the toys and had them waiting for her. It’s that they put them in a quiet spot off the kitchen. They gave her a place to escape to. It’s the little things that aren’t little at all, ya know?”

I told him about dinner. About how we’d all talked – all of us. About how they gave Brooke time – that precious, precious processing time that so many others simply trample over on their way to the next question. How there was no rush for her to respond before she was able. About how that allowed her to participate in conversation.

I told him how Brooke decided that we needed to say a special Thanksgiving grace and how everyone had been more than willing to play along when she said that she would teach it to us. And how we all learned it and then recited it with her – as one. “It’s Thanksgiving. The food is cooked. Now we’re going to eat it. Amen.” I told him how we all laughed and how Brooke simply couldn’t have been happier.

I told him how later I caught Katie talking Cousin Adam’s ear off and I figured I should intervene before he was tweened to death. And how when I walked over he shooed me away and said, “Git; I’m talking to my cousin.”

I told him how when Brooke needed space, no one looked twice.

I told him how I was convinced that that was why she was able to sit with us for so long – because she knew she could walk away when she had to.

And I told him about Grandma. About what a treat it was for all of us to see her. About how much the girls love her. About how much she loves them. I told him how beautiful she looks. How, at ninety-two years old, she’s cracking us up with her stories. I told him about how she and Katie talked and laughed and talked some more.

I told him what a joy it is to see them together and what a blessing it is for my girls to grow up with their Great Grandma in their lives. I didn’t tell him that I was pretty sure that I knew what I was getting him for Christmas, but yeah, I think a frame should cover it …


And I told him how when Adam left, he turned to Brooke with a hand up and asked for a high-five. And how, in a jaw-dropping moment, she wrapped her arms around him and said, “We’d hug.”

I told him how she then hugged everyone goodbye when we left. And how they all knew exactly how huge that was. How Auntie Marilyn stood with her jaw hanging open and said, despite the fact that I was standing right in front of her, “Jessie, did you SEE that?”

I told him how I’d seen it all – the love, the patience, the thoughtfulness, the respect, the little things that weren’t little at all – that made it all work.

And I told him how, as we got into the car, Katie said to no one and everyone, “I think that was the best Thanksgiving we’ve ever had.” And how, with all due respect to a lot of other Thanksgivings over the years, I really couldn’t argue.

And I told him how a couple of minutes later, Brooke said to no one and everyone, “We did it. We did Thanksgiving,” and how indeed, we certainly had.

Thank you, Auntie Marilyn, for everything.

It really was the best Thanksgiving we’ve ever had.

31 thoughts on “thanksgiving – and the little things that aren’t little at all

  1. what a blessing you have in that family of yours!! You are so luck and I am envious. What precious girls you have. OUr kids are so precious and important aren’t they….I am so happy you had such a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!! hugs to you, Jess

  2. Beautiful… you are blessed indeed. They ‘get it’!! What a joy for the girls to have that kind of visit with such special family members! It’s a day like that that helps you remember – you’re not alone. ♥

  3. What a wonderful essay. I read it twice. The first time as a story about Thanksgiving done right. The second time as a How-to manual to help me answer our middle daughter’s question of what can I do. She’s on a swim team that has opened the door to two boys who have autism. The coach has been amazing, and my daughter wants to help them navigate the loud,, anxiety-producing meets. We’re just not sure how. Thank you.

  4. The thank you is from us. What a spectacular, relaxed day! We love you all so very much and have gotten our lives’ too busy to get together more often so we are really thankful for THANKSGIVING!!!! Auntie and Uncle

  5. you got me again…typing through tears. You guys are truly blessed to have family members who ” get it”. Sounds like a wonderful day…much to be thankful for. Our family is still shoving hugs and kisses down my baby girl’s throat…even though I repeatedly ask them not to. And also assume she can just play with the kids and all the running and screaming…etc. They
    Iove her…but do not invest any time in learning HOW to love her on her terms. ..someday……

    • Oh man. This —

      They love her…but do not invest any time in learning HOW to love her on her terms.

      That’s it, isn’t it? If only we all could slow down a bit and learn HOW to love each other.

      Keep leading the way, Mama.


  6. I’m crying as I type this, because I totally get how it’s the little things that aren’t little. My guy doesn’t have autism, but between his ADHD, anxiety, and SPD, he needs a lot of the same accommodations as Brooke. He needs a quiet place to play/escape to, he needs time to process questions and formulate answers, he needs people who can read him/his anxiety and know when to back off and let him deal with whatever is bugging him, he needs people who know what a victory it is when he gives them a hug/kiss goodbye. We’re blessed to have family who “get it” and who go out of their way to meet his needs. I’m so glad you have that as well.

  7. I’m so, so, SO happy to read this. (Even though you made me cry, dammit!) You were all due for a restful, blissful, low-stress gathering. Beautiful, love. Just beautiful.

  8. I’m smiling through tears. I’m so blessed that both sides of our family get it. They do so well not to pressure our sons and will set up a quiet room as well. It just makes a huge difference. I’m glad you all had such a wonderful day and the pictures are beautiful.

    • You are in my house again!! Just moved back home to be near family and TONS of anxiety over whether we made the right move…. Well I didn’t really need any more reinforcement after watching my boy with his “aunties” but then thanksgiving …. And aunties who instinctively knew what to do to make my boy (and me) be okay in a crowd of 30 family members…. Small things and big things all day long and not one meltdown…. Rooms cleaned out for him to have his own space, repeat happy birthday singing despite all 30 just sang and its not his birthday, and each one spending alone time with him in his comfort zone… He didn’t ask to go home ONCE and actually laughed with his cousins……. Truly thankful this year

  9. Beautiful. I am so glad you have such a wonderful Thanksgiving. People who get it make all the difference. Every detail you mentioned is so important. But I have to say, the best part of my Thanksgiving might have been meeting you =) (Well and all those family members of mine too..but.. yeah) =)

  10. Wow, that made me tear right on up! Cousin Adam sounds like a winner. I love what he said to you when Katie was tweening his ear off…. 🙂

  11. We are all truly fortunate to have each other. I love that you and yours feel so loved at my sister’s house because of all the love she has for you. We are all the acorns that came from that great and wonderful Oak tree that is grandma. She is the role model that has helped us all to learn how to love one another and we must keep her values always in mind.
    I love that Marilyn, Julie and cousin Adam were there for you with love and caring and most of all, understanding….
    I love them and all of you. Yes, I am very “THANKFULL”.
    Love, Dad

  12. What a lovely family you have, and congrats on your fabulous day. I would love to tell you my family “gets” what my son needs, but it is not the case. Sadly, they simply shun us on holidays. As a result, I make sure my guy has extra special meals, toys, and tons of hugs and high praise every day, but especially on holidays. He is 18 now and working toward independence. I think my family has no idea what a loss they’ve had not letting my son in. He has expanded everything about me and my husband in the best ways possible: our hearts, our minds, our patience, our lives. Thanks for sharing your story. It gives me hope for my son and others with ASD.

    • I think my family has no idea what a loss they’ve had not letting my son in.

      Yes. And that is probably the saddest part for those who don’t take the time to get to know our children. They never even know what they missed.

      All the best to you and your family of choice. xo

  13. Wow. This brought me tears for so many reasons, but mostly because it is the kind of Thanksgiving or any holiday that will never happen with one side of my family because they do not respect boundaries or differences.

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