Last year at this time we were preparing to host Thanksgiving for 37. It was our first Thanksgiving at the Mashomack Preserve and we wanted to make it a holiday to remember. Family, friends, food, and fire, all the hallmarks of, well, a Hallmark Thanksgiving.
It was the promise of this gathering that was largely responsible for my agreeing to make the move to a place where the directions might almost be “over the river and through the woods.” We had the historic manor house with a commercial kitchen for the cooking and a table long enough to accommodate everyone. Miles of trails, views of the water, bald eagles. What’s not to love about that?
But I didn’t love it at first, even though I knew that I should. In selling the holiday weekend to family and friends, enticing them to travel over the sound and through the woods, I was also selling myself on the idea of what lay ahead for our family of four, of the wonders all around that I was still too homesick to appreciate.
We played games and did jigsaw puzzles, cooked and ate together, went hiking and clamming, and at the end of each night, we walked back across the big lawn to our house, all its unpacked boxes reminding us how much work there was to do before it felt like home.
It took me more than a year to feel settled, and to be honestly thankful for the place I find myself in. There is something about the turning of the calendar, revisiting a holiday for a second time that gives you a chance to see how far you’ve come.
So I am grateful this Thanksgiving to have finally found my bearings in a new home. I’m thankful for every small gesture of welcome from a new friend, for all the colors of the leaves at the beginning of November and the ones still hanging on this week, for ferry rides on sunny mornings when I get a spot on the east side of the boat, for seeing the water every single day, for foxes and eagles and hummingbirds and red-tailed hawks, for that summer evening we went clamming and then walked home to cook the clams on the grill, for the bat researchers who let us join them one night in the woods, for the veterans who came to Mashomack with the Strongpoint Theinert Foundation and left it with the best damn fire pit you’ve ever seen, for the privilege of living and raising my children in such a special spot, and for the chance to share it with the people I love.
Carissa Katz is The Star’s managing editor. She lives at the Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, where her husband, Jeremy Samuelson, is the preserve director.