Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving, All Grown Up

 No melted crayon leaves shining in the windows. No "I'm thankful for..." tree decorated with orange, yellow, and brown leaves that say MOM, DAD, CANDY, and PLAYSTATION. No storybooks or history lessons or discussion about the real meaning of Thanksgiving. 

There's no "Pick up your Legos" or "Do NOT make a mess in the living room! I just cleaned!"

None of that.

We're all grown up around here.


The day before Thanksgiving, I bawled my eyes out. I mean, I sobbed and sobbed. It's because of music. I had the grand idea to listen to CDs while I baked. And then a whole album made me think of when were first married, and all our college friends and how much fun that was. I didn't cry then. Not even close. Thinking of college friends comes with pangs of anxiety and betrayal, almost always. Not that day—I just had a happy feeling.

But then I put in another CD--a compilation—and suddenly I was hit with such a longing that I just sobbed. Because this is the first year that my daughter wasn't home, and I miss her. I miss how pretty she'd make things, and I miss asking her opinion and, sure, I miss her help. I love when she would be dusting in the living room while watching Netflix, how she'd make things just so.

But we're all grown up around here, and she's in Nashville with her husband and his family this year. She's making her own pies and figuring out how to roast a turkey and cleaning her own house. She's making her own traditions.

I stopped listening to music and watched New Girl instead while I baked a cherry/cranberry pie. And I thought about my father, as I always do when I make pies, and how every holiday feels like it could be the last one with him. And how will I cope... how will I... how? 

And back to New Girl, which is silly and sweet and utterly not sob-inducing.


Thanksgiving day started quietly. No Macy's Day parade, no dog show. Those were things the kids became enamored with just the past several years, so without them here, we left the TV off. Duncan went to his girlfriend's house early. Randy prepared the food; I prepared the house.

I drove across town to pick his mom up. This past month, she's fallen deeper and faster into dementia. Alzheimer's most likely, like her own mother. She was "so surprised" to see me; she had "no idea" we were coming for her. We tried and failed to find her purse, her keys, and her phone (she's taken to wrapping things up and putting them in suitcases), but we successfully found the cat. 

All grown up now, parents to our parents. 

 One by one the cars pulled in: Jesse and his fiancée, one family, another family, Duncan and his girlfriend, my parents. Champagne punch all around, and the house if full to bursting. Dad turns off his hearing aids; it's all just mumbling noise to him. Mom, the original party girl, is thrilled. 
"How many people are here?" she asks over and over.
"Fifteen," we remind her.
"Fifteen! I beat our neighbor. He was having 11 people over. I can brag to him!"
"You can!" we encourage her. A few minutes later she asks it all again. 

 We pray, we feast, we exclaim over each and every dish. It's glorious, this mix of family and friends who are family. 

I don't let myself think too often of our girl. I don't let myself think that this may be the last year my parents, now 92 and 94, are with us, or how far gone Randy's mom might be by this time next year. I look at my handsome boys and listen to stories. We laugh a lot.

Dad's usual after-dinner nap


It's not so bad being all grown up; in fact, it's lovely for friends to stay late and play board games. The punch bowl gets refilled again and again. We nibble at the turkey again, have more pie and whipped cream, break out the cheese board and homemade Chex mix. The teenagers go out Black Friday shopping but return within an hour or two. "It was boring," they report. "No fights. No lines. No crowds."


Before I go to bed, I text my girl. She's had a wonderful day, she says. She's sent photos throughout the day, so I've seen her turkey and pies and, most of all, her beautiful smile. 

I was dreading it just a tiny bit, this first Thanksgiving all grown up, but it was actually one of my favorites ever. I am deeply blessed by this life, by the sight of my parents across the table from me still, by my children love to come home and be with us, by friends who make themselves at home and linger well into the evening. 

Grateful, as always, to the giver of all good gifts.

The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.
{Mary Oliver}