It is the day before Thanksgiving 2021 and my seven-week-old son, Caleb, and I are baking. Of course Caleb isn’t actually baking—in reality, he’s just watching from his swing—but to me there is no difference. God is good, Caleb is here, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and together we are baking.
And as I pull pie after pie from the oven, I can’t help but notice that we are doing something else together, too: coughing.
The next morning I wake up sweating, achy, not exactly right. I take a COVID test just to be safe, as my husband and I have plans to see our family for dinner, and imagine that in fifteen minutes its results will give me yet another reason to be thankful.
Suddenly, the Thanksgiving morning we imagined—cuddling up on the couch in matching pajamas, with big cups of coffee and a very tiny baby snuggled between us, watching the parade—is replaced with a terrible new reality: I have COVID, Caleb has a fever, and my husband is reaching for his KN95.
Several hours and one emergency room visit later, the three of us are sitting six feet apart from one another on the couch. “What do we do now?” I say to my husband, not at all rhetorically.
“What do we do now?” he says, as if the answer is obvious. “We celebrate Thanksgiving.”
And that’s how the three of us wind up in the dining room, eating delicious, likely contaminated pies, and leftovers delivered to our doorstep by our family. Not at all hungry, hacking away, impossibly heavy with worry—but together, at the table, celebrating all we know for sure: that for this moment we are together, that for this moment we are alive, that for this moment, whatever the circumstances, we are home for the holidays.
And now, one year later, as we look forward to celebrating the holidays once again, hopefully in good health this time, I realize that there will always be something—a virus, a war, a personal challenge or tragedy. But the reason we celebrate, thank God, is that there will always be something else, too: family, friends, full bellies and beating hearts, long-held traditions and lovingly prepared food.
The stories we’ve collected for you in this issue all brim miraculously with that something else. Hurricanes still batter our coasts, the war in Ukraine still rages, our global climate continues to warm, all sorts of viruses continue to circulate. And the people and places you’re about to meet on these pages celebrate.
Because Thanksgiving will come and December will come and we’ll remember, even amid the darkness, that there is still so much worth celebrating. A baby born at a local hospital. A baby born in Bethlehem. The modern wonder of electricity. The ancient miracle of eight nights of candlelight.
So, yes, there is always something—but, as the holidays reveal so beautifully, there is also, always, so much else.
Wishing you and yours every joy this season and always,