Two weekends ago was Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada.

Late Saturday afternoon, I headed out for a leisurely drive to my parents ’house. It was a glorious fall day, the country roads lined with trees, full with leaves of red, orange, purple and yellow. Fall had officially arrived 2 weeks prior but the trees were only now fully reflecting the change of season. Driving past, they moved fast in my periphery, like a slideshow and before I knew it, so too did the memories of Thanksgiving’s past.

During my childhood years, my family would travel to spend the long weekend with relatives. It was a huge gathering of extended family and yet, in all those years with all those people, I carry only one memory that rivals my food memories.

The Erin Fall Fair.

Erin was the name of the town in which my relatives lived. I remember naively thinking that I’d be coming to this fair, every year, for the rest of my life and that our Thanksgiving tradition would never die.

As the years moved forward, my family continued the traditional weekend away. My vivid memories are mostly of the food … the obligatory golden roast turkey… my elderly aunt’s annual mandarin salad contribution… and an endless array of home baked desserts, the pinnacle of my long awaited eating spree. But the beloved fall fair was still there and now teen romance was in the mix. Aside from the food, the most exciting time was nightfall, when just “the cousins” and our partners would head to the fair. My boyfriend and I walked hand in hand, stealing as many kisses as possible without the adults around. I remember naively thinking that for the rest of my life, I’d be holding hands with this boy and our long weekend tradition would never die.

Over the next 10 years, my family continued the traditional weekend away and while the fair was still there, some of my family members were not. Back then it just seemed like, “that’s life” and for me, nothing about the weekend itself had changed. By now, all of “the cousins” were in our 20s and I had met the man who would become my fiancée. I couldn’t wait to introduce him at Thanksgiving weekend and walk the fair with him. I remember naively thinking this was just the first of many years to come, sharing this long weekend tradition.

The following year, my relatives sold their home and moved to a big city. Some of “the cousins” had married, some had moved… suddenly, things had changed. I remember feeling such grief. I wished I’d known what would be our last Thanksgiving with all the cousins in that house, in the tiny Town of Erin, walking through the fall fair. I wished I could go back, to catch what I’d missed…to savour more than just the food.

Over the next 20 years or so, life moved on and I had cultivated quite a career in hospitality. I spent every Thanksgiving deeply involved at work. I was managing a high end bakery, working double shifts and missing out on all the family gatherings. The years were passing and as “they” say, the seasons of my life had changed.

As I pulled into my parents ’driveway, I was back in the present. I opened their door and stepped inside. No smell of turkey roasting or pies baking. No relatives visiting. My mother stood at the top of the stairs, her health not allowing her to come down and greet me as she always has. My dad welcomed me, his sore shoulders rendering him unable to help with my bags. Penny (our pug) was sleeping so sound, her age preventing her from even hearing me come in. There was no naïve thinking, things had changed.

In that moment I realized, each of us is in a different season and the seasons are always changing. I was reminded how much of my life I took for granted, how much of it passed me by while living in active addiction and looking beyond the moment. Thankfully, I am now living my life in a season of recovery. I can’t change the past (nor would I want to) but I can acknowledge what is made possible in my life, only through a program of recovery.

It turns out, this was our last Thanksgiving with sweet Penny the pug, she passed 2 days later. I am so grateful that recovery gives me the ability to be fully present, to focus on who and what is in my life, right here, right now. Recovery gives me access to all that comes from living in the moment, in turn, allowing me to peacefully weather whatever comes when the seasons change.