Decades ago my brother-in-law Jim (who was not yet my brother-in-law at the time) dubbed this night, the night before Thanksgiving, "the biggest night of the year." During college and through our twenties, we would show up at our parents' houses for the weekend and, after quick hellos and laundry drops at home, converge to catch up and begin a long weekend "back home." We--our constantly changing circle of friends--might start out the evening at someone's house and then move on to Stella's (our favorite local place), or start at Stella's and then move on to someone's house, or another bar and then someone's house. The Stella's part was never in question.
I'm sure if I drove by Stella's tonight (if I weren't already in my new favorite pajamas) I would find cars, in typical "biggest night of the year" fashion, lining all the streets surrounding it. Inside I'd find the newest group of prodigal college students and twenty-somethings sharing the space with some local regulars in all seasons of life--drinking draft beer and waiting hours for Polish American pizza that was always worth the wait. I imagine some of my own classmates are there tonight as I write. I hope they are having fun.
Back then we'd all invariably stay out too late, and drink too much, and by the grace of God get home in one piece. The next day we'd spend Thanksgiving with our families, and still have three days of the weekend left to enjoy, and recover, and be back home, where we would always be welcome and have history. And there's nothing quite like that.
So tonight I am thankful for all my "biggest nights of the year," and grateful for all the people who were a part of them.