Four vocal Democrats, four outspoken Republicans, and a quiet Liberal sat around a dinner table. This is not a political joke – this was my family at Thanksgiving.
Prior to meandering over three hundred miles to visit my family in Aroostook County with my eight-month-old daughter and husband, I was nervous that our turkey’s wishbone would not be enough to successfully quash divisive political discussions that had occurred during the campaign season.
For the first time in history, Northern Maine had voted red, and parents and brothers were among the many citizens who supported the Trump-Pence ticket. It’s easy to scroll past angry social media rants or close a phone conversation when the discussion turned to a less desirable topics – it’s slightly harder when one is behind “enemy lines” as a guest in the opposing side’s home.
I briefly entertained skipping the visit entirely; but this holiday was especially special this year as it may be our last Thanksgiving together for a while. In addition to welcoming my daughter Lennon, our newest member at the dinner table, we were saying goodbye to some old ones.
My eighteen-year-old brother, Tsi, joined the marines this past spring and left to attend boot camp in South Carolina yesterday. My twenty-one year old sister, Jubilee, will be graduating from the University of Maine at Farmington this spring with a dual degree in psychology and anthropology, and she hopes to spend the next couple of years teaching abroad in Japan. Although I am excited to see the two youngest members of my immediate family exploring new endeavors in their lives, it is sad to watch them close this final chapter of their childhood.
My younger siblings, who are nearly thirteen and ten years my junior, would tell you that I am partially an older sister and partially a mother figure as I spent a significant portion of my own childhood caring for them while our own mother worked. I changed their diapers, settled disagreements, and comforted them when they were upset. Most of my humorous stories contain their laughing brown eyes and mischievous grins. When they depart, a significant part of what makes Northern Maine dear to me will go with them.
So, instead of discussing the trumpeting elephant in the room, we made the most of this final visit by reviewing old photography albums, telling childhood stories, and teasing each other with future predictions. In true Northern Maine fashion, our visit was cut short when on the final day the first flakes of an early snowstorm began to fall. Before my parents and siblings loaded themselves into their SUV for the treacherous drive home, I called for a final photograph in the fading light and falling snow. This moment in time is as unique as the tiny ice crystals that coated our shoulders, and I wanted to capture it before the moment melted into memory like the snowflakes around us. Despite the cooling temperatures, we stood their smiling and joking, united and warmed by our love for each other.