LONGLEAF STORIES

full circle in the hundred acre wood

Some very good friends bring us expensive champagne every time they come for dinner. Usually two bottles at a time. Often it’s 5:00 p.m. when they arrive, ready for a gin martini (he) and a Crown Royal manhattan (she), and the champagne goes unopened. We are building quite a stash.

The last two bottles have been chilling in the fridge for more than a month, festive red mylar hiding the French Taittinger within.

Our son-in-law popped a cork on one of them at Noon today, and we toasted our generous friends and each other. Bubbly at its best.

We gathered around the dining table, the day cool enough for a fire, even here on the Florida panhandle, a classic Thanksgiving day, with blue skies, boisterous robins, colorful hardwoods, exuberant children, and mellow adults. This time last year, we ate in this same dining room, but in far different circumstances. It was still a construction zone, dried in, but bare concrete floors and no sheetrock. Buck and I covered picnic tables with cloths, brought in pumpkins, candles, flowers, and a table lamp on a long extension cord.

We were all still in mourning from the death of our son, brother and uncle, Darryl, only the month before, and that of Buck’s first wife — mother and grandmother to all these kids — three months earlier. None of us could bear to celebrate Thanksgiving, but we couldn’t bear not to, either.

We held hands in a circle, read a brief Thanksgiving litany from the Book of Common Prayer, acknowledged our absent family members, cried, and before the evening was over, told stories and laughed. In the mysterious way of healing, our broken places began to knit . . .together.

Today we shared our feast and walked together in the woods.

Dark has fallen now and the house is quiet. Maggie is curled up by me on one side, Buck stretched out on the other. Life. What a concept. What a big, beautiful idea.

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