I learned from my Grandchildren — and all in one afternoon!  One of my favorite things about spending forty years as a mom is the fun we have when all the kids make it to town at the same time.  Because of distance and busy lives, this only happens once a year; and this year the occasion for gathering is Thanksgiving.  Yesterday we drove to Philadelphia and met our eldest son, Max, as he and his family arrived for their ten-day visit.  By the time we returned to the house,  three of his siblings and their significant others, two close friends who grew up with our gang — our surrogate kids –, and four more grandchildren had gathered to greet us.  Lunch had been ordered from the local pizza shop, and an extra table was set up in the dining room.  Each of us brought our own expectations, our own contributions, and our own expressions of love to the day.  The last time we did this was a year ago; but if the children didn’t look a year older, I might have thought that we had returned to the same table after only a half-hour break.

What did I learn from the kids yesterday?

Love deeply — especially your family.  Expect good things when they arrive and be open to all the good things they want to share with you.  Don’t hold back when you have the chance to be together.  There is nothing more delicious than spending a day with the people who just feel like a good fit.

Know what is important to you.  If you bring something valuable to a party, hold onto it and keep track of it.  Whether it might be a special toy or a graceful attitude, be sure not to lose it in the hubbub of life.  When something is an integral part of who you are, be sure you remember to leave with it at the end of the day.

On the other hand, always be prepared to share the things you love.  There is nothing more attractive to others than something that lights up your eyes or illuminates your spirit.  Be sure to let others touch the things that touch you so that they, too, can feel your joy.  Joy is infectious.  If you don’t believe me, just watch two two-year-olds playing together.  When one lights up with the excitement of playing, the other cannot resist wanting a turn.  Be generous.

Know the people you can trust, and follow your heart when you find yourself in their presence.  I am always amazed that the little ones carry the memory of their aunts and uncles and cousins at such a tender age and fly into their arms after a year’s absence.  I smile as I think of my greeting from little Gus at the airport yesterday.  He just turned two and, except for webcam visits, has not seen me since last Christmas.  He came running to me, arms wide; and when I picked him up, he planted a big kiss on me and looked me right in the eyes, proclaiming, “I MISSED you!”  Know who loves you and be sure to miss them when they are away.

Finally, when you do have the chance to be with the people who love you best, give lots of hugs.  You will take them with you as memories that will open the door the next time you meet.

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Even if you’re almost fifteen, don’t be too sophisticated to enjoy the little ones.  Even if you’re a big eight-year-old and only can visit for one day, join in wholeheartedly and leave your mark.  Even if you’re just a little boy, be sure to line up and say cheese.  If you’re pretty and purple, don’t be shy about bringing your favorite car and letting it make vrooming sounds.  Even if you’re four and it isn’t too exciting to have your picture taken, share a good example for the little ones and show them how it’s done.  Finally, if you’re not quite sure about this whole idea and you still want to participate, see Grandma — her lap is always available, and she is comfy and safe.