I am the sixth of nine children. When I was in the third grade, all of my four older sisters went away to school; three were in college and one was a freshman at a boarding high school. What I remember most about that time is how I felt when one or more of them would come home for a weekend.
Rose, attending an all-girls boarding school a half-hour away, came home most often. As soon as she’d walk in the door on Friday evening, still in her school uniform – a navy skirt, a short-sleeve white cotton blouse, knee socks and sensible shoes – the air changed. She talked about the Benedictine sisters who taught her and her classmates, who hailed from other states and foreign countries. Even their names sounded exotic: Nanette. Martica. Darunee. Of the new activities that now filled her days, I always thought “glee club” sounded so much fun. (I didn’t know it was the same as choir!) Additionally, for the weekend, at least, I would get help with some of my everyday chores and with looking after my younger siblings.
Three months into the school year, Thanksgiving was the first weekend all four of my older sisters returned to the farm at the same time. The beginning of that week already seemed like a holiday, with all the anticipation of the family being reunited and whole again. Mom’s cleaning and baking never ended, and when my sisters finally arrived, one by one, their chatter and laughter took over the house.
Even at 8, I knew what “thanksgiving” meant.