Friday, November 27, 2015

maybe my first grown-up Thanksgiving.

I've thought for years now that I was attending Thanksgiving as an adult. Sitting around a smartly-dressed table, surrounded by my loud, laughing family and a rotating cast of my siblings' partners and friends, I'd declare - maybe out loud, maybe to myself, always with brazen certainty - my college major, my big break-up, my vegetarianism, my post-Masters career trajectory, my engagement, my homeownership, my pregnancy plans. And nothing says, "Well, shit, I'm for sure a grown-up now!" like settling your newly-toddling toddler into her own high chair for the big dinner, like I did last year.

But last year, after wiping mashed potatoes out of my daughter's chins and thigh rolls and loading her into her car seat for the late-night drive back home, resentment washed over me. I fed Rowan her bottle while she stared out the window at the black sky, eyes glassy from being both wired and tired after a busy holiday. The highway was crowded but moving quickly. A minivan kept pace with us two lanes over, which I only noticed because the flashing lights from their overhead DVD player caught my attention every time they crept ahead of us. Inside the van sat the family: parents in the front, kids in car seats. And instead of the sweet scene giving me warm fuzzies - a young family, bundled up and heading home just like us - I felt jealous.

And not of the adults.

Of the kids.

It was brief but intense, a wave of bitter envy. What I wouldn't have given to trade places and be in the backseat again, dozing and trusting and possessing full confidence that I was taken care of and loved. To fall asleep cuddling my blankie, to be scooped up and tucked carefully into bed when we got home.

And this was before I had any inkling that that Thanksgiving was my last with my mom.

Fast-forward a year. My family coordinated cooking duties and timing in a flurry of texts in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. My brother-in-law, a talented chef, took on the turkey and the bulk of the meal. He and my sister and their two kids spent Wednesday night at my dad's house so they could get up early and start prepping the dishes. The rest of us trickled in throughout the day; J.J. and Rowan and I trekked over after brunch with J.J.'s family. The little cousins screeched around the couches while the aunts and uncles blocked sharp edges and corners. We FaceTimed with my sister and her kids in California. We ate, and ate, and fed the babies, and ate. We cleaned up, served pie, bid goodnight to the littles, watched football, and drank beer in the basement while cracking jokes and shooting clandestine videos of each other's terrible dance moves. One by one, those who had trickled in trickled back out. My sister and I joked about going Black Friday shopping at midnight (our shared worst nightmare) before finally succumbing to sleep. Some of us spent the night at my dad's, hoping to soften the transition from a house full of family and laughter to being alone again. For him, and for us.

Blurry cousins.

Blurry uncle-tosses.

I drove home by myself this morning, since J.J. and Rowan headed back to Ann Arbor last night. It was raining. I was happy. I acknowledged my ambivalence about the holiday in the days leading up to it, recognized my grief and my contentment without judging either. I'd taken care of my family where I thought I could, hugging my sisters and squealing with my nieces and bonding with my nephews and laughing at my dad's stories about my mom. We'd weathered our first big holiday without her, and we were still us, laughing and sarcastic and eating ice cream pie, and she was still there (not referring to the phantom sweater incident!). We found her tablecloth and copied her recipes and told her stories and realized why she got stressed when the kitchen grew overcrowded and no one would sit when dinner was ready. We watched out for my dad, and he watched out for us, and just that - all of us, gathering and laughing and loving - is exactly the legacy my mom cultivated.

And something about this acceptance of - all of it - seems to be the biggest difference between then and now, childhood and adulthood. I'm trying not to rage against reality just for the sake of the fury. I'm planting my passions and heightening my cognizance, yielding to truth while sensing its impermanence. I feel present and aware and here for the ride, waving to the family in the minivan instead of wanting the family in the minivan. I'm still me, neurotic and dramatic and insatiable and wondering, but I'm moving on to accepting all of it as part of the package, the price we pay and are paid for being human. 

What more could I possibly give thanks for?

{enjoying this content?
please consider donating to help keep this blog running!}

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...