I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

Our Haines daughters were away for the holiday with their in-laws, and Papa Bob was tucked in at my sister’s, so we decided to take the ferry to Juneau for Thanksgiving. A quick trip, since the schedule worked out (miracles of miracles), we brought the dogs for their first vet visits since the pandemic (all is well, five vaccines between the two of them, and I can’t even tell you what they were except for rabies. Dog shots, thank goodness, are not a hot issue), and because inviting two beachy furry golden retrievers to dinner and two overnights was pushing it, and sliding me into the batty- dog- lady-granny red-zone, I made them grooming appointments too (out with the dreds!) so at least they’d smell nice. (Jeff was glad they came…)

Also, I did bring four pies, two smoked turkeys and some moose meat for both Juneau daughters and their families. (I can’t help myself. It wasn’t really a bribe.)

Dinner was at Eliza’s house, just up the street from JJ’s, with all the Juneau relatives, who are my kind of celebration meal people. My son-in-law made one turkey, some sort of French way that took 24 hours at low temperatures, and just in case that didn’t work out, his father roasted another one, and we had the smoked turkeys for extra back-up if needed.  Everyone contributed so much food that we all went home with large trays of mashed potatoes (garlic and plain), Eliza’s sweet potato casserole (savory with rosemary), Jim’s stuffing (smoked oyster and regular), mushroom gravy (vegan), JJ’s  favorite green bean casserole, Betsy’s colorful beet salad and roasted carrots, slices of pie (Sarah baked three more in addition to my four– that I actually didn’t create, although I did bake them, since the Costa Brava bakery in Haines makes them, and the bakery is actually in baker Rebecca’s apartment down past the dock, so they came frozen and I followed her cooking instructions and they were perfect. “Easy as pie” never was truer.)

Instead of football we watched little children dancing and playing. My son-in-law’s father, I call him James’ and Molly’s co-grandpa, said pictures that we take in our heads and store in our hearts are always better than the camera snaps, and I agree so I didn’t take many– especially of people. I wanted to soak it all in. Every second of family time. I missed this  so much last year that I thought it might kill me.

James made the place cards with sweet notes to each of us inside. (He was thankful that I always bring him books.) Molly (4) said the toast and the blessing — I am thankful for my great big family– and we toasted and teared up a little. There were four children under six, one on the way, and four grandparents, aunts, uncles and three dogs — It snowed and rained and snowed again in the course of one Sandy Beach dog walk. It snowed some more as we headed home on the ferry the next day and apparently never did stop snowing in Haines while we were away.

We got home just in time to shovel out for the Lighting of the Library- our first large indoor public gathering in over a year.

I’m on the board of the Friends of the Library that sponsors the event, and we required masks and didn’t serve food (since the masks would all come off and stay off. Who would be able to resist seeing all those smiles?) It was fun, and slightly awkward without cookies and coffee to offer anyone or sing-a-longs or even the school and women’s choirs… ( maybe we should have sent everyone home with a plate of leftovers?) — and because people showed up early, and it was so dark and snowy– we lit the tree and hallway lights before we had planned to, and then turned them all off once everyone had arrived and the mayor was a good sport so he flipped the switch on again for the fun of it. We are out of practice, clearly.

As we cleaned up from the silent auction (it was a fundraiser), Tom stayed and played carols, and then Cathy joined him and sang– and it was just perfect– that stolen moment– two voices and a guitar in the big empty room, the lights from the tree reflecting in the windows of a warm well-used library full of books. I am so much more aware of all I have to be thankful for because I have missed this– and I am grateful for every bit of it.