Ditch the shopping list: Cherish this holiday season

This is a photo of me and my grandmother after I graduated from basic training Oct. 14, 2011. Family is important to me as I reflect on the holidays. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

This is a photo of me and my grandmother after I graduated from basic training Oct. 14, 2011. Family is important to me as I reflect on the holidays. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jaeda Tookes)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- For many people the holidays are the happiest times of the year. Families come together, sales are everywhere, houses are decorated to the nines and often it is the time when people are in a giving spirit.

Unfortunately in the midst of all this holiday cheer, many department stores are now opening their doors Thanksgiving Day for Black Friday shopping. Meaning the day families are coming together to give thanks is also the day families are wrestling over marked down prices.

We have started to develop this mindset that it is OK to be this way, but this year I plan to ditch the shopping list and cherish the holiday season.

For the past two years my husband and I were stationed in Germany, and were unable to go home for the holidays due to the job I was working at the time.

It was miserable for us to not be with our families. Thank goodness for modern-day technology, even though we were unable to be there we were still able to video chat with them almost every day.

Family means everything to me. We may argue and have disagreements, but at the end of the day we are still family.

During the holidays, I find myself thinking about childhood memories at my grandmother’s house.

We called my grandmother Ma, and everyone from my cousins to great-uncles would come together to celebrate this special time together.

Weeks before Thanksgiving, we would go crabbing to prepare for what became a tradition of having seafood gumbo with all the fixings the night before Thanksgiving.

Ma would cook a mean gumbo with shrimp, sausage, rice, chicken and the crabs we caught.

Those are the times I enjoyed, but Thanksgiving Day was even better.

I can still smell the mix of ham, turkey, and macaroni and cheese that would fill Ma’s house and hear my mom and aunt laughing and dancing in the living room while the food was cooking.

Thanksgiving means more than just the food to my family. For us it is a chance to laugh, have fun and reconnect.

Ma died April 3, 2012, just 24 days before her 80th birthday.

It breaks my heart to not have her here, especially during the holiday season. I sometimes find myself shedding a tear remembering the “good times” when she was still around, but it is those types of memories I hold close to my heart.

As you and your friends and family gather around the dinner table this holiday season, be thankful for our deployed service members who are not able to spend time with their families, and be grateful for their sacrifices so we can spend time with ours.
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