Thanksgiving with Family.

The holiday season is upon us. From Thanksgiving till the end of the year, we’re encouraged to celebrate the family, seen through Norman Rockwell eyes. Lots of us fit that mold. Our families come together, smile into the camera, and stay up late laughing.  Generations of women gather in kitchens and cook massive meals to the praise of the men folk.

But some of us didn’t come from warm families. Some of us had parents who didn’t really want kids after all. Some of us have lost loved ones, or are living apart. Some of us are unwanted members of an extended family. Some of us are just in-between and awkward about it. And some of us are flat out lonely.

Each year we smile and accept holiday invitations from gracious friends whose family make us feel welcome. It’s a wonderful to share holiday time, but then sometimes driving home alone, we might feel we’ve fallen short of normal somehow. Do you know all the words to Blue Christmas? Have you had that long drive home in the dark?

Where do you start if you want a family of your own, but people don’t seem to be cooperating? How do you recuperate if you have taken a bounce or two, and aren’t as confident or trusting as before?

One gift animals give us is a place to keep our hearts, safe and secure, until we can find a place to merge back with our own species.

Can you get a cat? You can learn a lot about self-esteem from a cat. They have an enviable way of taking care of themselves first and feeling good about it.

Horses are the best teachers for learning to grow trust and honesty, it’s their first language. Plus, they can lift you up and carry you to a better place- in more ways than we can imagine.

And if you need some love without conditions or limitations (who doesn’t?), then the obvious answer is a dog. Dogs aren’t burdened with the full range of emotions, so their understanding of unconditional love is much more evolved than ours.

I’m not suggesting that you dress all your animals up in little matching sailor suits and make them eat at the table. I think if you have more than 40 or 50 cats it might be time to ask yourself some hard questions. And I’m not proposing a constitutional amendment for inter-species marriage.

But life is complicated. People can come and go, and for some of us, family connections are not always dependable. Sometimes a little creativity in defining family can make all the difference.

Now I’m an old gray mare and grateful for my acquired family of humans. And I’m forever grateful for the fur family that cared for me before I found my home, and for the ones who still stand guard here.

Does your family include more than one species? From before Noah’s ark and still today, some members of the family were always supposed to have fur, or feathers, or eek, even scales. I think that was always the plan.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

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