My heart begins to ache around the first of November. If I close my eyes, I can actually picture some of our family Thanksgivings when I was a child. My senses come alive as I remember the sounds of my eight brothers and sisters, my parents and grandparents, all talking and laughing, and the smells of the turkey cooking in the big, white Nesco roaster, my mom's homemade pies fresh out of the oven. I remember the "coming of age" feeling when I got to leave the card tables designated for the kids and take a seat at the adult table. I loved when my grandma or grandpa would tell all of us to take our seats because supper was ready and it was time to pray.

I think I knew even then how lucky I was to be raised in a home filled with love. Growing up in such a large family taught me to be more grateful for priceless gifts than for material goods. We gave thanks for being together, for our health, for laughter and for love. Sometimes when I look back at those Thanksgiving dinners, I marvel at how we all fit in my grandparents' house, and yet we never prayed for them to buy a larger one. We lived with hand-me-downs, from clothing to bicycles, and for all of them, we gave thanks.

As an adult, nothing has compared to Thanksgiving as a child. I miss the brisk temperatures (mostly because it still seems strange to me to even watch a football game when it's warm outside). I miss my grandma's Jello with applesauce and my mom's amazing macaroni and cheese casserole. And I miss the puzzles and other games in my grandma's closet that we'd play before being called to dinner. But much, much more, I miss my family being complete. I long for my grandparents, my dad, and my brother and sister, and never is that feeling more profound than during the Thanksgiving season. I give thanks that many of my friends still have their families intact. When the melancholy feeling becomes too intense, I force myself to stop and give thanks for the wonderful memories.

A few years ago, my nephew, Jason, spent Thanksgiving in Iraq. I remember praying so hard that God would keep him and the other servicemen and women safe, giving thanks for their safety at the same time. When Jason returned to Illinois, it felt like Thanksgiving. Today, I offer thanks to all who have served our country, to those who continue to serve and to their families for the sacrifices they make each day so that I may celebrate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving as an adult is so different because I am unable to spend it with my family. Now my prayers of thanks include having a job, a home and a car and the blessing of loyal and loving friends.

As with every Thanksgiving, this year I have so many things for which to be grateful. My niece, Domini, is recovering after being stricken with Anti-GBM Antibody Disease, also known as Goodpasture's Syndrome. She still has some hurdles to clear, but I am immeasurably grateful for the progress she has made.

This Thanksgiving, my family also has a new addition. My niece, Jacque, and her husband, Matt, blessed us in late August with Katherine Elaine. I love when we get new babies in the family. Little Kate is the fifth in this new generation of Ardises.

Warmth surrounds me as I think about Avery, Sam, Jaxon, Natalie and Kate. Thanksgiving through the eyes of a child. I have so much for which to be grateful.

Chris Ardis is in her 28th year of teaching, 27 of those in McAllen ISD. She is also a freelance writer. Chris is involved with a grassroots movement to transform public education called SOAR McAllen, which you can find on Facebook. You can email Chris at cardis1022@aol.com.