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The Welcome Table: An Annual Online Thanksgiving Meal

thanksgiving table

[Melissa stands up, taps her fork against her glass, and clears her throat. The conversation around the table dies down, and she while she normally kicks off this annual meal with a Dumbledore joke, it doesn’t quite feel right in this time period.  She looks at everyone at the table.]

We do this every year: Come together as a community and have a virtual meal before we scatter to our actual meals.  Unless, that is, you do not celebrate Thanksgiving.  But I hope that you’ll join the table for virtual food and company even if you don’t follow this tradition offline.

There are a lot of people hurting at this table.  For some, it’s the same reason people are hurting at this table every year.  For others, it is because they feel as if their fellow Americans don’t have their back.  In both cases, I caution that you apply what you know from your experience with infertility and apply it forward to all other aspects of life: It never helps to have your fears or sadness negated or dismissed.

I’m glad we’re not only here, sharing, but also listening.

For some people, this pre-meal is what gets them through their real meal later in the week. People have written that they’ve printed out this yearly post and comments and left the paper in their purse because it helped to have a tangible reminder that there were people out there who got it. Who weren’t going to ask them when they were going to hurry up and have children. Who weren’t going to cringe when someone spoke the name of a child they lost.

We are all so different. All of us. Around this table. But we have this one facet of our lives — and yes, even though it may be a big, overpowering one for you right now, it is only one facet of who you are — where we overlap: infertility or adoption or loss. And I am so thankful, so grateful, that I found all of you. Everyone needs a You-shaped space where they can be themselves. And that’s what I have here.

So every year, I ask people to bring a virtual dish to our meal. Place it in the comment section, explaining what you brought and why. And say anything else you need to say before sitting back down to enjoy the company. Update about where you are; your emotional state. We’re an international group, hailing from countries all around the world. So while Thanksgiving is an American tradition, I hope that everyone around the world feels as if they can participate. (Especially our Canadian neighbours who celebrated Thanksgiving weeks ago.) I’d love for your dish to come from your culture or country. Don’t worry about the contents on the table clashing.

I am bringing stuffing.  It’s comfort food; mushy and soggy and warm.  And I need some comfort food right now.

So what did you bring and what do you want to say to the community?

And please, start eating as everyone is introducing their dish. We don’t want the food to get cold and there are so many of us at this table. Thank you so much for coming, and I’m going to carry the warmth of this meal with me for the rest of this week.


1 Beth { 11.22.16 at 8:07 am }

I am bringing apple pie, because I make really good apple pie. And we all need some good dessert in our lives right I will. And I will say to everyone at the table, I wish you peace this Thanksgiving. Know that you are loved and thought of with kindness. Be kind to yourselves.

2 Middle Girl { 11.22.16 at 9:55 am }

I bring macaroni and cheese, like stuffing a comfort food. Also like stuffing it is a verst dish with so many possible variations. Comfort comes in different varieties too. May we all be open to providing comfort as needed in the form most available.

Peace be with you.

3 Brid { 11.22.16 at 10:32 am }

I’m bringing wine, and a humongous cheese board… because it keeps everyone lounging and chatting at the table long after the meal is finished… L’Chayim!

4 loribeth { 11.22.16 at 1:06 pm }

I’m bringing perogies & holubtsi (cabbage rolls) which always have a place on my family’s holiday tables. 😉 Carb overload, anyone?? 😉 ALI-wise, at least, I am in a relatively good place at the moment, and thankful for all my friends, online & real-life, who helped get me here. <3

5 Cristy { 11.22.16 at 1:45 pm }

I’m bringing green bean casserole and a pumpkin pie. The green bean casserole is a favorite from childhood that reminds me of the happy moments and the pumpkin pie because, like Beth, I make a mean pumpkin pie.

Like Mel stated, this has been a hard year. I’m told that leap-years can often be so. But I also know that this community has been one that has modeled for me how to weather such storms and the importance of listening even when our gut reactions are to jump in fighting. I’m grateful for all the support through these past 5 years as well as today.

6 Ashley { 11.22.16 at 2:26 pm }

I’m going to bring a pumpkin roll because I made one for a work function last week and the children were begging for one of their own. I like to use real pumpkin that I blanch and freeze myself because I don’t like the color and taste of canned pumpkin.

To the community I can only say I hope everyone has things in their lives to be grateful for and loved ones to share those blessings with. May the holiday season be one of peace and restoration as we prepare for a new year.

7 a { 11.22.16 at 6:28 pm }

I’ll bring some chocolates – that always makes me feel better. I’m currently thankful that 2016 is almost over and I hope that 2017 won’t be quite as opposite world as this year. Hope for the future is the defining characteristic around here, isn’t it?

8 Valery { 11.22.16 at 6:49 pm }

Poffertjes I’ll bring! the Dutch mini pancakes, the name of my blog and diagnosis all rolled in one. Traditionally eaten fresh from the pan, topped with melting butter and powdered sugar.
Even my 17 year old step son commented how fast our baby is growing up, almost going to school. Fighting to stay out of reach of a winter depression seeping into my life. Better start work soon, it’s been too long already.

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.22.16 at 9:40 pm }

I’m bringing chocolate mousse. Available with the option of a little Kahlua.

Saying hello to the community I’m gathering with for the 10th time. Though our stories have developed since that first online meal, I am still mightily grateful that all of you came into my life. Blessings to us all.

10 Persnickety { 11.23.16 at 1:21 am }

I am bringing some homemade bread and a bottle of wine. They represent a lot of history, of sitting down and sharing space. This has been a much tougher than expected year. I am thankful for a global network of family and friends- evidence that that there are good people all over the world .

11 torthuil { 11.23.16 at 1:39 am }

Oh fun. I will bring butternut squash soup with garlic, wild rice and ginger. Because I love soup and this particular recipe works well in accommodating various food restrictions so good with large groups of people. Life is good: family is awesome, child is amazing, TTC is weird, all the changes and conundrums that come with getting older are…..not bad or good, but new and not comfortable. In any case can always remember the Alice Munro quote: “Learning to survive is not the the same as being miserable. It is much more interesting.” Happy Thanksgiving!

12 Raven { 11.23.16 at 6:01 am }

I am bringing a cheese ball (decorated to look like a turkey)! ( My thanksgiving was last month and this was a huge hit!)

This is my third Thanksgiving with you. I cannot thank you enough for facilitating a safe space for this community to grow and be comforted. I am raw these days – despite everything we’re doing my body refuses to ovulate and it is so very frustrating as we approach our 6 year TTC anniversary and still no baby. Coming here is like going home for the holidays – warm, safe and perfectly me shaped. Thank you!!

13 katherinea12 { 11.23.16 at 1:19 pm }

I am sending some of the new creations from one of our local sweet shops that makes “geek” sweets – Dr. Who, Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc. Delicious (all kinds of creative fillings/combinations) and fun. Normally I love to bake, but we’re digging out from the Month Of Sickness (pretty much every form from colds to GI ick) so trying not to touch anything or spread that stuff around.

I’m so thankful for this community and the kindness, caring, and stories.

14 Jess { 11.23.16 at 9:49 pm }

I’m bringing the spinach-and-gruyere gratin I make each year, because it has tons of cheesy goodness, and the shallots are cooked in white wine, which means you HAVE to drink white wine while cooking it otherwise that’s just plain wasteful. 🙂

I am also bringing hugs and permission to be kind to myself (and to yourself), because the holidays are hard. Permission to make a snarky comment when someone says adoption is taking a long time or asks, “why are you on birth control, anyway?” as if these aren’t questions that send tiny daggers our way. Permission to disappear for a little bit if needed. Permission to talk openly about how hard things are even if it makes others uncomfortable. I hope Thanksgiving is peaceful for you. So thankful for the support this community brings to each other.

15 Charlotte { 11.24.16 at 9:53 am }

This is one of my all time favorite traditions each year, Mel. Thank you so much for hosting!!

This year I am bringing homemade banana nut bread, because it is so rich and decadent without being too sweet. But it is SO comforting, and feels like home.
I am doing pretty good this year. I mean, yes, there are always hard parts, sad parts, parts that make me want to curl into a ball and cry ( I miss my dad just SO much and this time of year really brings that out, and my babies who didn’t make it here on earth, although I know they are together celebrating in heaven) BUT I am choosing to be happy, each day, each moment. I wake up choosing to be happy and to let some things go. And to live in the moment and not worry so much about a future that’s not promised.
I wish each of you the peace that I am trying so hard to live in each day. I pray everyone finds what they need to make it through this holiday season, and to know that I am thinking of all of you, pulling for you.
Thank you Mel, for this. I’m so grateful to you, for creating this space. I feel less and less like I belong in many other places IRL, but this is one where I feel exactly like I belong. Happy Thanksgiving.

16 Mali { 11.24.16 at 10:40 pm }

I’m very thankful that there are people in this community who reach out to those who are hurting. I think in the past I’ve brought NZ pavlova (or perhaps lamb), so this year I wanted to think of something different. Maybe I’ll bring a taste of summer – a melange of colourful summer vegetables, and some berries and my homemade strawberry icecream for dessert.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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