It will be good to be on Martha’s Vineyard for the holidays this year. After a long time away with my husband, Jerry, we have returned to Massachusetts, myself for semi-retirement, Jerry for life in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. Thanksgiving dinner will be at my mother’s house. She graciously opened her door to me a few years ago when Jerry’s illness forced me to sell the home I shared with my husband. She even took in the two cats. I do not have to look far to be thankful this year.

I cannot help but look back on Island Thanksgivings our family had when I was a kid. We often had the feast at my grandmother’s house, which has been sold, in Vineyard Haven. The “SOLD” signs are still up. I drove by the property yesterday and I am so glad that, though you can sell real estate, you can share but not permanently and irrovocably sell memories. Grammie’s house was a chicken coop in its early years. Amazing that it fit my grandparents, uncle, aunt and their four kids as well as my own nuclear family of six way back when.

We kids, eight of us, would sit at the kid’s table in the cool back room where the laundry was done and stuff was stored. My mom, Tina Fisher, my late aunt Ruth Snider and my grandmother Chris Pachico would prepare the meal. My cousin Pat and I, as wives-in-training, did the running with the laden plates. Men were served first, then the boys, then my sister. Then Pat and I would sit down with our meals. Mom and Aunt Ruth sat down with theirs once everyone, except Grammie, had been served. My grandmother, exhausted, sat down to dinner last. That is just the way it was and that is the custom I have kept throughout my 42-year marriage. It is women and children first only when your boat is sinking.

My brothers and my three male cousins could be a little uncouth. They would sing that timeless favorite, Great Big Globs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts until my sister Martha, Pat and I would spew mashed potatoes and cider out our noses. The boys would terrorize us throughout the meal, like they did every day. The adults kept their distance unless my little sister started screaming or blood was drawn. Those were the rules and those were the days.

After the feast was over, when we were old enough to reach the sink, Pat and I washed all those dishes, plus the pots and pans. Then Grammie would take us and anyone else who wanted to go, and a dog or two, on a walk to Lake Tashmoo or the Mink Meadows golf course, which was much farther away than Lake Tashmoo. It was an idyllic childhood, I thought then. I still think so.

Sometimes we had Thanksgiving dinner with my father’s brother, my uncle Fred Fisher, Jr., either at my uncle’s farm, Nip ‘n’ Tuck, or at our house in West Tisbury. I had only two cousins from that part of the family, Sandy and Fred 3rd. We all waited breathlessly for my Aunt Muriel’s signature dessert, whipped cream on whipped cream. Uncle had dairy cows then, and there was no shortage of cream. My cousin Fred 3rd owns Nip ‘n’ Tuck Farm now, and he gives hay rides during the holiday season, beginning with Halloween. My cousin Sandy serves a huge dinner to her many friends at Thanksgiving. Some of the people who celebrate with her have no other family, and it is an ideal time for them to give thanks for her generosity throughout the year. She also throws a mean Halloween party.

When I hear of family wars breaking out over the holidays, of escalating depression and even suicide this time of year, it boggles my mind. You would think a family could lay down its arms and use them for hugging instead of conflict this time of year. I sympathize with those dealing with depression at a time when togetherness is the norm for a lot of us. Spending the holidays alone must be so very difficult. Reaching out to those who are alone should be part of how we spend this time of year, but so often it is not.

I do not have any trouble finding things to be thankful for. There will be a holiday meal at the nursing home with my husband the week before Thanksgiving, I have a roof over my head, I am with family, I am home. I should be able to put my head on my pillow Thanksgiving night and give thanks to God for the day.