Thanksgiving Apart: Still Thankful
I have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving.
On the one hand: Food. So much food. I love to cook and I love to feed people and my inner Jewish grandma loves nothing better than a houseful of guests and enough food to feed an army. “Leftovers Tetris” in the fridge for the next few days makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. And when I use the turkey carcass to make stock, it’s always a day when I feel like the house is cozy and warm and a fortress against the “real world.” (I know. I have a bit of an odd relationship with soup. I’m okay with that.)
On the other hand: Gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, gratitude is a wonderful thing, and right now I feel like my cup runneth over in that department, but as an Eeyore-leaning human, that’s not always the case. There have been a lot of Thanksgivings where I struggled to find thankfulness for anything other than the food, and that meant simultaneously feeling crummy and berating myself for feeling that way. More recently, I feel grateful all the time (my, how life has changed in the last year or so), but 1) I sometimes worry about the “good times” ending, because I often cannot simply enjoy the moment, and 2) as my oldest races through her senior year (this year is flying by, right?) I am always aware of “lasts” and thinking about how next year will be different.
In other words, I can always find something to either complain about or feel ambivalent about. It’s a gift. Thanksgiving seems to magnify this “skill” in me.
This year is particularly weird because the kids won’t be home; they’re going on a school trip—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really—and we’re not hosting a meal this year, so the kids will be gone and my kitchen is empty. I hardly know what to do with myself. Well, that’s not entirely true. Preparing to send mah baybees nearly 800 miles away without me would be a flurry of activity and unfounded worry for me even if this wasn’t my daughter’s last year at home and/or my son’s first time away like this.
The timeline went something like this:
Trip announced. There was much rejoicing and fundraising. Also, we discussed the trip in vague terms, because it was so far away. “Oh! That’s so great! What fun!”
Trip approaching. I spent a solid month comparison shopping for cold weather accessories, because surely my southern children would freeze to death in the snow where they’re headed. [Side note: Oh hi, El Niño. Yep, it’s actually colder in Georgia right now than it is up north. Okay, then.] “Oh! Hey, we still need to Do Stuff and Buy Things!”
Trip imminent. One teen made lists and more lists and ran out to do last-minute shopping on at least three separate occasions. The other teen shrugged whenever I asked if everything was set, and got dragged out shopping several times for missing items. I developed a bizarre, Tourette’s-like affliction where I barked out a declaration at random whenever I realized we’d forgotten something. (Last night it was “BELT!” in the middle of the grocery store. I’m a pleasure to be around.) “Oh God why didn’t you tell me you didn’t have any socks? When were you planning to mention this dress doesn’t fit? What do you mean you don’t have a luggage tag??”
Trip departure day. I skulk around the house as quietly as possible, praying the kids sleep super late, as they’ll be on a bus all night. I consider baking them some cookies to take, then realize my oldest already did. I guess my work here is done.
Now I’m pinging between excitement for them, some sadness that we won’t be together, unbridled gratitude that everyone is happy and healthy and we really do have so, so much to give thanks for this year, and a touch of what I can only characterize as emotional motion sickness at the pace at which life seems to be galloping along these days.
I suspect this is how it’s supposed to be, but once the kids leave tonight I’ll spend the remainder of the week hoping for (happy) texts and Snapchat updates and trying not to wish they were here at home with me. And as I sit down with friends at their house, I’ll be genuinely grateful, of course, but also missing my teens, even as I’m so proud of them and glad they’ve spread their wings and gone off on such a wonderful adventure. My goal this year is simple (haha): Enjoy the good, and breathe rather than holding my breath waiting for the good to disappear. I am very slowly learning that “good” and “hard” aren’t mutually exclusive, and bracing myself against disappointment or stress only means I miss out on enjoying the good stuff.
So: I will bid my teens goodbye tonight with genuine excitement. I will miss them, of course, but hey, it’s good practice (for all of us). I will enjoy Thanksgiving with friends, this Thursday, and look forward to a family Thanksgiving when everyone returns. The day of celebration doesn’t matter. Missing the kids (and even worrying a little) is normal, but not the point. The point is being grateful for everything—all of it, even the stuff I never would’ve chosen—because no matter what, my little family is okay. We’re better than okay. We’re lucky.
(The other point is pie. I figure that goes without saying, though.)