This morning, as I sat typing my Thanksgiving and Advent preparation list, I realized I had left out a very important detail. My daughter, Elizabeth. I made a quick call to check on my girl and to find out what arrangements we should make to assist her in coming home for Thanksgiving.

She’s not coming home.

She tells me she’s received an invitation to celebrate at the home of a friend.

“You understand, right Mom? I mean, it’s okay…isn’t it?”

“No…it’s not okay. What can I say? I want you home. I’m selfish…but I do understand. I don’t have to like it, do I?”

That settled it.

A few tears later, I realized once again, how often I have lied to myself. “I can’t wait until they’re grown and independent. Can you imagine, darling? Hot showers, unlimited phone usage, plenty of clean towels, uninterrupted conversation…” These are the things we dream–things we never really believe will happen. “Grown and independent…” Did I really say that? I don’t think I meant it! Will it ever happen?

Well, it’s happening. My family is shrinking. A married daughter with four little ones, another daughter living out of the state and my oldest at home attending college full time, with work, study and sleep in between. Six children remaining, ages thirteen to four…a full house by anyone else’s standards; anyone but mine, that is.

I feel, so very keenly, the absence of “my girls.” For the longest time, it was “us girls.” School together, housework together, cooking together, shopping together. Oh, how I miss it! Jane’s gourmet cooking, Elizabeth’s fabulous cookies and Meredith, keeping everything together with her sweet smile and efficiency.

This Thanksgiving the table will be set, the candles lit, the wine poured and prayers offered. Surrounded by family and friends, we will toast one another and feast. A happy and joyous day.

But the table will be a little less crowded this year…