It’s the American holiday Thanksgiving this week, and I can’t let it pass by without giving it its due.

Thanksgiving is, after all, my favorite holiday. Growing up in Massachusetts, the end of November brings chilly fall weather and the sense that winter is coming soon. The leaves have long since fallen to the ground and the naked tree branches are a stark reminder of the coming winter. The days are getting shorter and the sun starts to descend behind the trees by 3 o’clock.

It’s a time for fires in the fireplace, hot apple cider and snuggling under quilts. When I was a kid, Thanksgiving Day was a day for my whole family to gather ‘round our dining room table to share food and stories. I never liked turkey much, but enjoyed everyone else’s eagerness for it and the ceremony of my father carving it up, fulfilling special requests from my Grandma for dark meat and for large helpings from my brothers. I gobbled up all the sides, enjoying the wide variety of flavors and colors in large dishes crowding each other for space on the expansive table. I delighted in the orange of the sweet potatoes, the crunch of green beans, the tang and tartness of cranberries and the warming spices throughout. As we passed plates and ate, the hum of conversation was punctuated by the clang of utensils and the ring of laughter.

I loved the time with my grandparents. I loved having them all gathered round the same table, laughing, squabbling, teasing and reminiscing. When everyone was over-full and second and third helpings had been doled out, consumed (with partial success), or refused, everyone scrambled to clear dishes from the table, put away leftovers and wash dishes. When it comes to cleaning up, helpfulness is a competitive sport in my family. Not so much with meal prep, but that’s okay because my mother enjoys a quiet kitchen.

My grandparents have all passed on now, but Thanksgiving is still a time for me to remember them, and be with them in spirit. I treasure the memories of them on these holidays. How I loved to comb my Pop’s hair and make him tea with lemon after dinner. We had those little lemon juice containers that looked exactly like a lemon. I would hold it over his tea cup and count the drops to his specifications–not that he was very specific (I believe his directive was 10-15 drops) but that I adored being able to serve him in this way.

My Grammie would sit in one of our rocking chairs and rock and smile as she talked with my Mom about her latest needlework project. The cats would wind their way around our legs as we settled into our seats, soon finding their own places to curl up—a willing lap or an ottoman would do.

Most of all it’s the nourishment of food and warmth and familial love that I treasure. Since I’ve moved across the country and my brothers have both married, we aren’t always able to gather all together on Thanksgiving Day. But we do find times to all be together at least once a year, and often as many as two or three times. Every time we’re together we find this spirit of togetherness that sustains us.

Wherever I am on Thanksgiving Day the smells and flavors of the season bring those same feelings. I’m grateful for all of it; the memories, the blessings of a loving family, warmth, comfort, and nourishment.