Forty years ago, at age 16, I took my first trip to Europe to visit my aunt, uncle and cousin. My Detroit-born aunt and uncle had gone to Paris on a bicycle trip in the early 60’s and well, they never returned to live in the States. A few years after I was born, they too had an only daughter. Although an ocean apart, Vivian and I developed a close relationship.
But the last decade has been busy raising children and dealing with lives so we haven’t seen each other but once. This week of Thanksgiving wonderfully changed that track record. Instead of celebrating a beloved Thanksgiving in Wyoming with children and friends as we usually do, my youngest son and I came to Europe to celebrate with our broader family. And boy did my French godson grow tall while maintaining his joyful smile.
After a special weekend of family and five-course, home cooked French meals, today my son and I walked the many steps of Mont St. Michel and ate oysters next to the seawall in Cancale, Brittany – something I did with my family on that first trip 40 years ago.
It was a remarkable feeling to see how my memory matched with reality (a lot). As we ate oysters and drank a glass of wine, I remarked to my son that if someone had given me a book as I was sitting at dinner here back in 1979 saying “read about your life,” I would have turned the pages gasping in awe – both at the beautiful and the painful moments.
Today, I stared out at the sea, feeling such gratitude for every part of my life – for the wonder that 40 years seemed like only an instant, and for the realization that I’m still standing and able to share these memories with the next generation.
So I wanted to share an idea as we bow our heads at this time of Thanksgiving. Go visit a place that was special to you as a kid that you haven’t been to since. Maybe it was a camp or the first tree you climbed. Go there and allow the space to wrap around you. Remember back to the child you were, full of ideas and hopes. Now look across the road of your life. It wasn’t always easy. Chances are there were some pretty hard moments. And you are still here, so you made it and so did I!
We’ve learned. We’ve loved and yes we’ve even lost. Such is life’s journey. May we find much to be grateful for as we breathe through the years. May we also think forward to the next 40 years in wonder and wisdom. With luck, the stones upon which we are standing will still be here waiting to help us remember all that life gives us and all that awaits.