Empty Seats

Bursting through that boring, gray front door you wouldn’t have expected a vibrant crowd of people who all share similar genetics. The aroma of thick mashed potatoes, peppered gravy, and perfectly cooked turkey filled the room, which was surprisingly more noticeable than the welcoming voices. The head chef, formerly known as Aunt Chrissy, showed her authority slapping the wooden spoon on the glistening granite counter and silence flushed over the crowd. This was like any other Thanksgiving I had experienced as a young girl, the spoon that rang through the whole kitchen meant “fend for yourself”. The brawl commenced and the fight was on for the spoon of mashed potatoes, the turkey was practically naked, and the stuffing was nothing but crumbs. Don’t let the bare pans fool you, everybody in the Querry family acts like a savage lion hunting gazelle. Our eyes may be bigger than our stomachs, but that seems to be a common occurrence regarding any holiday.

Those full plates circled around the dinner table, although I couldn’t help but notice several empty seats. The wooden spoon tradition is something I expect every year, one thing that came as a surprise was the amount of people absent from our family Thanksgiving. Marriage, college, or miles is what kept them from residing in their typical seat. The seat in front of me remained untouched, but this time last year my eyes glazed over a pasty-skinned, Jesus-loving, loud-mouthed, and short statured girl. This year her body filled a seat at an unfamiliar table, which resided thousands of miles away in her new home. Her absence was mourned as grace was lead by an unfamiliar, raspy voice. It sounded strange as the same words she once said before came out of another human’s mouth. That was her tradition, not theirs. I’m not familiar with change, and unlike many humans, I don’t welcome it with open arms.

This was our family’s time to focus on the positives of life and disregard the negative. It is a moment that leaves everybody refreshed and in a way relieved. Last year I walked out that same gray front door feeling like I just left a church confession, yet this year I felt emotions I was unfamiliar with. This year I felt sorrow that the grandchildren were growing up and becoming adults, paying their bills, filing for taxes, even getting married. On top of sorrow I still experienced that overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. I was grateful for those memories of past Thanksgivings where my cousins and I didn’t have a worry in the world except who was going to be the mom when we played house or who would get the blonde Bratz doll instead of the brunette one. As more matured young adults we swapped our Bratz dolls of Phase 10 cards, but this year we didn’t have enough hands to play. I was thankful that even though we had some empty seats at the table they still felt somewhat full. There are some people out there with a full plate that sat alone at a dinner table that once held a family. Nobody could fill those seats that were once held by the original owners. Memories are evidence. Genetics reside at our family table, prayers were spoken in that seat in front of me, and gravy was spilled in numerous spots. Memories are what keeps those empty seats alive and traditions remain just only with a few adaptations made to them.

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