Happy Thanksgiving to all my American family and friends today. It’s a day I look back on with great fondness, from our very first Thanksgiving, which was just a few months after we had moved to New York. We weren’t that bothered about it; just delighted it would be a day off work. When we got an invitation from Bridie to join her family for dinner in the nearby city of Yonkers, we went without any great expectations.

Originally from Galway, Bridie’s brother, Paddy, was married to my Aunt Dorothy, so there was a connection, though we hadn’t met previously. That day, Bridie opened her heart and her home to us and her family took us in as if we’d always known each other. Her generosity saw us spend a lovely day chatting, laughing, eating until we could burst, and it made me love Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is all about the meal, which is amazing in so many ways. A big turkey is the centerpiece as a nod back to when turkeys roamed wild in America. But then they have a million side dishes, including a sweet potato pie with marshmallows. Yes I did say marshmallows. Now, I’ll try anything once and this was definitely only worth trying once.

Yes, the meal is the centerpiece but it’s really about the people you share the meal with. A secular holiday with no gift buying or mandatory decorating; it really can be a day that focuses on family, friends and giving thanks. I took this from that first Thanksgiving we experienced, and for our remaining years living in America, I really enjoyed sharing the day and the meal with family and friends.

My son James, who lives in New York, has in recent years added a Friendsgiving meal to this weekend. It’s a potluck supper, so everyone brings a dish to share and, during the shared meal, they give thanks for the friendships around the table. I love this idea. A Friendsgiving would be an opportunity to say thanks to those that maybe I don’t always say it to.

The friend who drags you out for a walk when the grief is so deep you can’t put one foot in front of the other.

You know the friends I mean: the ones who go dress shopping with you and subtly suggest you try a different dress to the ill fitting one you have just emerged from the changing room in. The friend you can text in the middle of the night cause you heard a noise outside. The friend who sits with you, saying nothing, when you can’t stop crying. That friend who gently asks you if that’s really what you want to do. The friend who drags you out for a walk when the grief is so deep you can’t put one foot in front of the other. The friend who has you in stitches when she tells you she sent a text, setting out in great detail the various beauty treatments and waxes she wants to book, to the dentist who happens to have the same name as her beauty therapist.

I am lucky that I have friends who do all of the above and more. I’m also a believer in the line from the song ‘Caledonia’, “lost the friends I needed losing; found others along the way”.

That’s the thing about life: we make and need different friends at different times of our lives.

There are friends I’ve known since school that I might only call once or twice a year, but each two hour call picks up where the previous one ended. More recently, to the surprise of many, there are friends I met on social media. Earlier this year I went to a “Tweet-up” and met several people I had only previously met on Twitter. We laughed the night away as if we’d been friends for years. .

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, in all colors and genders, from years ago and months ago, but they all have one thing in common: they like me and I them.

So today let’s give thanks to the friendships that nourish you, that mind you and care for you and importantly that give you space to cry and lots of reasons for deep, belly laughs.

Happy Friendsgiving!

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