As we emerge from the pandemic (our family locked fully down and has been way slower to unlock than many others, so we are still in “emerging” mode), we are starting to re-embrace our old traditions.

Take Thanksgiving dinner and Saturday gumbo, for example: For almost all of our married life, my husband and I have done a big dinner with family on Thursday and then had lots of friends over for gumbo on Saturday. (You have to do it that way because then you can make the stock from the turkey carcass on Friday, which means it’s easier to get the fat off and that way your gumbo doesn’t get too greasy when you add the roux. You also have to do it that way, if you’re me, because it gives you a day off between gatherings where you can just chop and cook in blissful solitude.)

Our 2020 Thanksgiving was a sad, small affair composed of just the family who lived in our house, and while I did make gumbo afterward, I didn’t invite anyone over to enjoy it as in years past. (I did drop it off and enjoy a few socially distant visits, which were very welcome.) In 2021, we had dinner with our immediate family and had two friends over for gumbo on Saturday. This year, we included even more family at our Thanksgiving table and had many friends over for gumbo on Saturday.

It felt so good to be getting back to normal.

And yet, it’s still kind of hard to accept that … this is “normal” now for me. “Normal” no longer includes my mom, which I’m not sure I’ll be able to ever wrap my brain around. “Normal” includes my dad still, but in a much more limited capacity than before. “Normal” means we have one kid off at college and one kid who would always rather be out with friends than home with us, when it used to mean we always had our kids at home with us or at least knew where they were at all times.

I know this is how life goes. I know babies grow up. I know parents get old and die. None of this is a revelation; none of this is new, but it isn’t a pleasant phase of life, necessarily, that I’m in right now.

At least right now, though, I have friends and gumbo. And even if it’s not perfect, it’s somehow more than enough.