Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving, 2006

“I love you.” Aunt said softly over my shoulder as I clung to her in a hug goodbye right before we left her house and headed back home a couple hours ago. “It feels like forever since I’ve seen you. I’m glad you came.”

It was a good day. All my “Thuck Fanksgiving” and “Down with Turkey” subject lines can remain in the draft folder. I don’t need them this year.

I spent some time today thinking. Sometimes that’s not so good for me, but today was reasonably busy. More Dora with Little One, playing house downstairs, answering questions and sharing thoughts.

I helped Mom with pies (cherry, apple and pumpkin. For 5 people. That’s more than a half pie per person, I know. We have leftovers.), salads, vegetables and other side dishes. I took a short nap and tried to write a couple posts, but they weren’t coming together correctly. Hence the thinking to try to make some sense of myself.

I decided I am most thankful for my family. The very people I shared hours with this afternoon.

I am most disappointed that I have not started my own family. And Thanksgiving – for some reason I have yet to figure out entirely – has become the time to acknowledge that over the past few years.

I think it’s because it’s the least important holiday for my family. People are free to skip it, though we’re happy to have folks around if they’re able. But attendance isn’t mandatory. So my cousins rarely show up. Aunt and Uncle sometimes travel. Brother typically pops up at some point, family in tow. But last year it was just Mom, Dad and me. The one who won’t get married.

I remember the large (well, for us 10-12 is quite big) gatherings growing up. Everyone was around. We’d play games and eat too much, talk and laugh. But still, I’m not crazy about turkey. I’d rather have cake than pie. And no presents? Really? Nothing? Materialistic little Katie was quite distraught.

But then eldest cousin started doing her own thing. Cooking and baking in her own home for friends, and now her family. Younger cousin was the next to go – she lived too far away, travel was overly inconvenient, she had to work on Monday. So – even in grad school – I was the only child who traveled to be home on Thanksgiving. But that was fine – I enjoyed being with my family. I liked the attention.

I think it was in grad school that I started to promise myself that I’d soon have somewhere else to go. Or someone to bring home with me. It wasn’t a big deal – not at first. Just a glance in the mirror when I was washing my hands. A “better luck next time” moment of pain that I hadn’t found the right man yet before heading back into the warmth of my family.

But that moment kept getting worse as years passed. There are only so many times I can tell myself the same thing before the statement begins to feel hollow. If I didn’t find him this year, why do I think he’ll appear before next November? This - the way life currently exists - could be it. It doesn’t have to be, of course, but it could be. And I don’t want that – it scares me. Saddens me in a deep, leave-me-alone-if-you-disapprove sort of way.

I decided not to dwell on it this year - not anymore, not after the past few months. I’d simply avoid my eyes in the mirror all day. Not think about it. And I didn’t. Much.

We arrived at Aunt’s a bit late. I helped warm items we’d brought from home, arranged dishes Aunt had prepared. Carefully placed the good silverware and straightened the paper turkey napkins on the golden cloth napkins atop good china. (I’m not sure why there were paper turkey napkins. But I made sure they were as pretty as possible.) Then we ate a tremendous amount of food. Brother, Brother’s wife and Little One sat on one side. I was between Mom and Aunt on the other. Dad and Uncle at either end.

It was pleasant. No, it was lovely. The food was good, conversation easy, atmosphere comfortable. We held hands to say grace and I was pleased to be where I was. Grateful for these people.

My heart tugged a bit painfully a few times – when we prayed for the cousins who were with their families. When Little One went upstairs to find toys from the other grandchildren. I sat on the floor to play with the puzzles and blocks. And wondered if I’d raise a child alone, if at all. But then I focused on the fishies and turtles on the bright foam. And I was good again.

I hugged Brother goodbye after helping him load his own offerings in the trunk. They were late for his in-laws' dinner already. Then I returned to discussion of the other children. Eldest cousin has a little boy. Little Cousin is a girl. I smiled over pictures – they’re both very sweet. I’m looking forward to Christmas very much. I enjoyed the stories, but found myself staring into space, considering the fact that my family consisted of a dog and cat.

That’s OK. I tried to soothe. That’s good. You wanted more and you still have time to get it. For now, there are animals to love and care for. That’s really OK.

I settled on the floor to play Squint with Aunt, Uncle, Dad and Mom. It was surprisingly fun. Moving tiles around, making pictures, giggling and guessing. And if my stomach cramped when I wondered what I’d be doing when I was in my late 50s – if I’d have someone with whom to play games and tell stories – I forced it back and tried to figure out how to draw a golf club with little lines, squiggles and curves.

We took a break to have pie and sat at the table. I finished my tiny slice of pumpkin and started on the cherry, and found myself slipping into sadness again. I had to wash my hands when I was done, so I went slowly toward the guest bath. I sighed when I kept my head down – not even glancing in the mirror. But I couldn’t do it – couldn’t look, couldn’t give a pep talk, didn’t know how not to be sad in that particular moment.

“Help me out.” I asked God. “I don’t want to be like this.”

I returned to the kitchen and Aunt suddenly gasped when she remembered something, then rushed to her sewing room. She returned with an armful of items.

“I wanted you to help me!” She said to Mom and me. “I completely forgot! I was going to put together the ornaments for the mitten tree at church – Uncle and I printed up stickers with the kids’ names and ages, but I wanted to get everything ready tonight.”

So I placed bookmarks in holders and made a pile in the center of the table. Aunt and I stuck names on each of the items while she explained how she’d keep track of who bought for which child.

“The names go fast.” She said, indicting I should start decorating with the shiny Santa stickers while Mom punched holes and tied ribbon on the bookmark/holder sets that were completed.

We talked as we stuck stickers, punched holes, tied ribbons and checked the names off lists. I was content for a couple of reasons. I love Christmas – it was good to look forward to a holiday rather than fighting dread over the present one. And I’m blessed. I have a family who loves me and is able to provide what I need. I’ve been given the ability to provide for myself. I’m capable of being happy if I work at it.

Now I’m sleepy and pleasantly full. Watching reruns of Friends with Mom while plotting out our shopping expedition with Aunt tomorrow morning.

I’m glad Thanksgiving is over, honestly. Onward to Christmas! Additional shopping, bringing decorations from the attic, writing the family Christmas letter, figuring out charitable activities. But today was good, and for that I’m quite thankful.


Lucy said...

Happy thanksgiving :) I'm glad it was a good day. And *hugs* for the stomach cramping moments; they suck.

Heather said...

I am also glad it was a good thanksgiving for you.

Our friend and I and another woman scientist had a wonderful Thanksgiving here, ate to much, told funny stories, bounced ideas around, played with the cats, and drank good wine. Two of the three of us are very close to 50. No stomach cramping of the sort of which you spoke here.

We live in an age of marvels. Internet friends of like minds meeting accross hundreds or even thousands of miles, and we have the freedom to do much of we might want. I am not sure how this will come off, I mean no harm or condemnation, but In truth I do not understand wanting a family so badly. We are not short of people in the world. I'm sure it is nice to have someone who loves you and children can be a joy, but studies of happiness in people indicate that they are also a burden, and the happiest people on average are those with no children.

When I was young I assumed I would marry and have kids. It never happened. And I have no regrets. I do not know how I could have lived my live with a family in it. My live is full as it is now.

In any case, enjoy your extended family and you niece, she sounds like a fun child!

Anonymous said...

happy thanksgiving, katie!

i am sorry for the sad moments...that always happens to me too at the holidays. i imagine it is even harder when there is such a lovely little one around.

it will be better. take care! hugs.

MapleMama said...

Happy Thanksgiving Katie!

I'm so very glad you were able to find joy with your family and have a lovely holiday.

Your did bring a new friend to Thanksgiving this year (Sprout!) and I'm sure there will others in your future. I feel it in my wishbone! :)

*hugs* and onward to Christmas!

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