There have been many Sundays of Thanksgiving weekend when I’ve basked in the glow of a good meal, good conversation, and the absence of family fights and co-dependent smiles obscuring gritted teeth. Then there were those when I’ve been glad it’s all over. I’ve obsessed over the arguments, the drunken insults and crying jags, the overcooked pecan rolls, the revisited childhood traumas, the temperature of the house, and my perfect-holiday fantasy spiraling into the toilet. I’d go to church and pray to forget it all and have selective memory repaint the face into a smiling one.
Okay, okay, I take responsibility for having an ideal that is hard to live up to. I like the breakfast to be just filling enough so that we don’t need lunch but aren’t so hungry that the pre-dinner drinks allow us to appreciate the meal, not struggle to remember it. I like the morning walk to be scenic, strenuous but not too strenuous, and timed so that the turkey is filling the house with it’s scent upon return. I want the meal to be organic, home grown, perfectly presented, and hot. I want the blessing to be profound, eloquent, poetic, and brief. I want the conversation to be witty, intelligent, insightful, and respectful. I want it to linger on through dessert and coffee. I want to watch glowing faces in the firelight. I want to feel loved. Is all that too much to ask? Well, yes. It often was. As I was often reminded. I then blamed myself for expecting too much. Stupid fantasies.
I’ve thought about describing my life to others, which, one has to do a lot when one travels. It’s interesting to describe day to day activities that we take for granted and do without thinking. Being in a new relationship requires this as well. It makes me think about what I choose to do during a day, and whether it is really necessary or meaningful. When explaining your every move, you want your activities to seem important and have worth.
Same goes for holidays.
We had dear friends from England here with us this year. I’ve spent many hours with them over the past four decades, on one continent or the other and I’ve often described Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday. I painted such a rosy picture (the fantasy one) that they wanted to experience it. This was the chosen year and it became one of those events, that having grown up with, we looked at in new light. Try explaining this holiday and all it’s associations including what time the meal is served. Try justifying friends flying across the ocean to partake in this feast. It takes on new meaning. A deeper one. How do we exude the feeling of gratefulness and how have we expressed it in the past? When we tell stories of past Thanksgivings where relatives made a scene, or someone dropped the turkey, or we were so hungover we couldn’t eat, we look at each other with questioning glances. So, yeah, why do we like this holiday so much? What does (or should) it symbolize? Why these three pies? Does everyone eat the same thing? Always? Why Thursday? Why isn’t Friday a holiday as well?
I thought there might be terrific pressure to make it perfect, knowing I would only be putting that on myself. After all, they had no idea what it was going to be like. But they were flying from London for God’s sake! This had to be good!! Oh, and the full moon was happening! Were the crazies going to come out in everyone? (At least I didn’t have to worry about everyone going into labor as the meal was being served.)
Enter my granddaughter. Two years of excruciating cuteness. Loving, accepting, entertaining, hugging, dancing, cuteness. She calms me. She lit up this house while the rest of us fell into a five day choreographed celebration of our land, our harvest, our love for each other, and all our blessings. We laughed more (and harder) than I can remember. We told stories of where we came from and who we became. We cleared out my woods for a fantastic bonfire. We hiked. We ate. We drank. We accepted each other’s quirks. We loved each other. We glowed in the firelight. We hoped the house did not ignite.
We felt loved. I felt loved. It was a good one.