Last week I talked about Finding Gratitude In Failed Relationships. My challenge for this month was to find gratitude in unexpected places. Places you wouldn’t normally think to look for thankfulness or gratitude. This week I’m focusing on Finding Gratitude for Thanksgiving, my Thanksgiving
I am not a holiday person. The mere mention of Christmas gives me a feeling of uneasiness that I can’t describe to you. I know where it comes from, but I’m certain people wouldn’t understand that feeling unless they were raised in the same environment as me. Easter isn’t something we’ve celebrated either – I like to blame it on my broken nose and the Easter Basket I tripped over, but I don’t think that’s truly the reason. Valentines Day doesn’t get much attention from either me or my husband, and that’s OK. We decided when we first met we’d rather celebrate and focus on love during the entire year, and not just one day. Thanksgiving is different. I own Thanksgiving!
A few years ago my grown kids all sat around the Thanksgiving Day Table I told them I understood they were all married now and things would probably change with our holidays. They would need to merge their holiday visits with new In-Laws and they should start traditions of their own as they had children. Everyone sat around the table loosening their belts and decided by unanimously all Thanksgivings would be spent with me and their respective In-Laws could have them for all other holidays. I couldn’t have been happier.
Each year I looked forward to every aspect of this holiday. Everything from sitting down with my cookbooks (iPad) in my lap and developing the Thanksgiving menu. A cup of tea at my side, revisiting old favorites and contemplating new possibilities. Each triggering a fresh taste in my imagination. There are a couple of family favorites I wouldn’t dare change. My stuffing is a work of art! The Turkey, thanks to Alton Brown is spectacular. So I focus on new and interesting vegetable side dishes and desserts. If I am honest with myself I think I could put the Turkey, Stuffing and some Mashed Potatoes and Gravy on the table and everyone would be happy. But where’s the challenge in that? There’s a certain victory in getting non brussel sprouts lovers to eat, like and enjoy a new brussel sprouts recipe. I enjoy the process of thinking about trying new recipes and watching my family build plates that look more like small scale mountains.
One day it became clear.
My son called me out of the blue and left a message on my voicemail. He said, “Geez, I’ve had a crappy day so far. All I want to do is come over to your kitchen and sit on the counter and count”. I hadn’t thought about this in years, and I couldn’t believe he remembered it. He was just a toddler! My main strategy for coping in a very unhappy marriage was finding my own personal fortress of solitude. That turned out to be my baking in my kitchen. The second strategy needed to be containing a wayward toddler. So I’d sit him up on the counter and tell him he was in charge of counting everything I needed for that particular recipe. I explained how important his job was because one too many eggs would ruin the cookies and we didn’t want that….did we? After my little trip down memory lane, I called my son back and we talked a little bit about his counting history for me in the kitchen. We analyzed that together and realized the kitchen is still my fortress of solitude and it doesn’t count unless he’s in the kitchen with me.
The effort my kids had to make in order to spend Thanksgiving with us hasn’t always been easy, because my husband and I have been moving around the country the last 10 years. We seem to be getting farther and farther away from our home base of Michigan. We’ve always realized how difficult this was and tried to slip them some gas money for the trip.
And then suddenly my it changed.
My daughter stops coming to Thanksgiving. A couple of years ago, my daughter pocket dialed me. Unbeknownst to her I listened in on a conversation I didn’t really want to hear. As I said…Helloooooo, Helloooo….Hey, Hey! I could hear her talking with someone about Thanksgiving. I heard her say, they weren’t coming to my house anymore. I listened for awhile and heard her talk about her husband not understanding that this was the only time she really got to see her family. I didn’t want to hear anymore so I hung up.
When I called her back and asked her about Thanksgiving I didn’t let her know that I had been privy to her private conversation. She told me they were trying to “work it out” so they could come and they were trying real hard, I knew it was a lie. She told me she’d call me back and let me know for sure, but she never did. Things haven’t been the same between her and I since. She never calls, the only birthday sentiment I get is a happy birthday on FaceBook and Mother’s Day goes unnoticed.
I felt bad my daughter and her family wouldn’t be coming this year, because I had a really big surprise for both of my kids. I had gotten them both a new iMac. I thought it would solve all
our my problems regarding keeping in touch with such a long distance between us. My husband and I would talk about how surprised they were going to be and we delighted in being able to give them a gift we weren’t used to being able to afford. My son and daughter in law were absolutely beside themselves. It was so much fun to give them a present I knew thought they’d really like that much. I had my daughter’s computer shipped to her and I waited to hear from her as I tracked the Fed Ex truck delivering it. I imagined hearing from her before the FedEx truck made it out of her drive way. That didn’t happen….it was hours after I could see the package had been signed for by her (with her signature) that she finally called – it was actually FaceTime on the computer! I was so excited for them….Her reaction, however was so completely underwhelming, I felt like I had just sent her the proverbial sack of coal. I didn’t understand. I felt like I hadn’t done enough.
She’s never called back.
Now, I know the philosophy of most mothers out there is you don’t quit on your kids, and although I agree (I will always be here for my daughter if she needs me), I just won’t spend any more time chasing someone who doesn’t value me for who I am instead of what I can do for them. Do I wish she were in my life? Absolutely. Is this new way of thinking based only on this one example? No, there’s a lifetime of behavior like this, I just refused to see it.
So this week I sat and thought about what was really on my mind. What am I truly grateful as we get ready for Thanksgiving? I can honestly say, I’m grateful my daughter. She was the first person in my life that taught me the meaning of love. I am so thankful she has a network of family and friends that can offer her the love and support she needs. I am grateful that she can live her life without maintaining an obligatory relationship with me. The relationship with my mother was painful – right up until the end, I’m grateful she doesn’t feel obligated to endure that.
As I sit with the cookbook in my lap, my tea at my side, I am grateful for the text from my son that says 72 hours. I know that means he’s counting down the hours until all 8 of them drag their sleepy heads into the car to make the very long journey over the river and through the woods. I am so very grateful for the woman my son married, she is a great wife, mommy and daughter in law. Despite being long distance grandparents, I am so thankful they have worked to help us maintain a close relationship with our grandchildren.
On Thanksgiving Day I will be ever so grateful to have my son and his family gathered in my kitchen, along with my husband, each with a glass of wine, reminiscing of old times, planning some new adventures and counting for me while I find my place in my fortress of solitude. This is the best part of my
day year! It’s not the Norman Rockwell version of Thanksgiving, but it’s MY Thanksgiving.
One of my favorite quotes from Wayne Dyer: Change the way you look at things and the things you look at begin to change. Tell me about the best part of your Thanksgiving.