Thanksgiving Together

Evangeline Smith

Published 10 November 2020

My first Thanksgiving in L’Arche I asked if my family could come to the celebration, which is typically an intimate gathering with the immediate community. After counting chairs and plates it was decided that I could invite my family. Bringing my family to L’Arche on Thanksgiving was what you would likely expect: hilariously joyful and incredibly chaotic, in the way that sears the memories in place. Seven extra people, pieces of an elaborate meal being prepared in one house to then be transported to another, in time for the gathering. As we were loading up the turkey, I couldn’t find the van keys, so I grabbed the spare keys and drove off flustered. Mid drive Elbert mutters that the drippings from the turkey dish had spilled over onto his shoes, soaking his socks and the car floor so thoroughly that the smell lingered until the next Thanksgiving. As we stopped at a light, I was alerted by a fellow driver that those keys I couldn’t find were on the roof of the van, ready to fall off at the next turn. After arriving at Angel House and walking through clumps of people we gathered to bless the meal and then there was that familiar pause that is characteristic of my days in L’Arche, a shared moment of silence after a chaotic scene where it sinks in: it’s really good to be here with these people.

In the years that have followed there’s been countless touch points between my family and L’Arche. We’ve gone on house vacation to my childhood home; Chris often calls my dad because he likes the sound of his deep voice; Christianne, will frequently ask, “How’s your sister with Down syndrome, and how’s your other sister?”; Elbert, after we’ve situated ourselves on the porch will turn to me and inquire, “How’s your family doing?”; Anders was one of the first people I told after finding out that I’m going to become an aunt.

After COVID-19 the Peace Corps sent all their volunteers’ home, including my sister. Initially she lived with me, and after a month and a half she moved into Friendship House, living with the same core members I lived with when I first moved to L’Arche. Watching Bekah settle into L’Arche, making the experience entirely her own, provokes similar feelings to my first Thanksgiving, looking around the circle and thinking, “it’s really good to be here with these people.”