As a blogger I felt it was my duty last week to write a post about Thanksgiving. I tried but failed. I tried to come up with something…. anything about Thanksgiving such as a list of what I’m thankful for. But the words wouldn’t come and my list seemed so blasé. Don’t get me wrong. I have many, many things in my life I’m thankful for– a loving husband, two wonderful kids, a roof over my head, a warm cozy house, living in a neighborhood that I love, a loving church family, blah, blah, blah. Both my sons arrived safely home from college to be with family on this holiday and that is reason right there to be ever so thankful. When they each arrived home and were pulling in the driveway, I bowed my head both times and said a silent prayer to God, thanking Him for His protection, for watching over them and getting them both home safe and sound.
I know I’m going to sound like Debbie downer here, and also a little like Scrooge, which is strange since Thanksgiving really IS one of my favorite times of the year. But if the truth be known, it’s a time when I can’t seem to keep the stress and feelings of sadness from getting to me. Yeah, I know…. tis the season. I’ve buried both my parents now and so Thanksgiving is a day I think of them. All. Day. Long. Some people might tell me I need to just “get over it” as they’ve been gone for years and I need to move on. Maybe I do. But I just can’t seem to do that. Memories of them flood the very depths of my soul and although these are happy memories, because my parents are no longer here to celebrate with us, the sadness creeps in and overwhelms my being.
While growing up, Thanksgiving was always a big holiday in my family and full of traditions. I have very happy memories as a child of going to the store with my mother to pick out the perfect turkey (my mother was always very picky about her turkey– it HAD to be a Norbest), watching her planning her menu (which she ALWAYS wrote out on her Steno pad), decorating the table with her brown or gold table-cloth, her Napco turkey dish and her Gurley pilgrim and turkey candles which were ALWAYS on her Thanksgiving table. On Thanksgiving morning, I always awoke to the smell of turkey roasting and sautéed onions in butter…..oh, what a smell! Our family would gather in the dining room for our meal that evening which was one of the few times we actually got to eat in that room and not the kitchen. It was always a night where we had good conversation and did a lot of laughing. And sometimes after we ate, we would pull out the Family Feud board game and have even more fun and laughter. My father was a pilot and traveled extensively so Thanksgiving and Christmas were the two days of the year that we were guaranteed that he would be home all day and not at the airport. Yep, happy memories are all I have of this holiday.
Now that I’m older and have cooked Thanksgiving meals myself and hosted my entire family a few times, I’m always in awe of my mother, who used to do the entire meal by herself. Believe me, I know how much work it is now. I didn’t have the slightest clue when I wasn’t having to do it myself. My mother was the type who didn’t like other people in her kitchen when she was cooking so it was just understood that we stayed out of her way. I don’t ever even remember helping her with the dinner dishes afterward, which in my eyes now is just terrible. Shame on me and my sisters but as my oldest sister reminded me the other night on Thanksgiving, our mother not only didn’t like anyone else in her kitchen when she was cooking, but she also didn’t want anyone else loading her dishwasher either. I don’t ever remember hearing her complain though…. she loved to cook and was darn good at it. I think my mother did feel the stress of doing it all by herself and she had her own ways of dealing with that stress, which was partaking a little too heavily in the Holiday Spirits. Yes, my mother liked her wine and other alcoholic beverages. As I was stressing the last few days trying to get everything prepared for Thanksgiving dinner (and keep in mind I wasn’t even hosting this year), I sort of even understood maybe just a teeny bit why my mother drank to get through the holidays. I called one of my sisters after stressing the night before Thanksgiving while trying to get all my dishes prepared and after having just burned my broccoli casserole, and proclaimed loudly: “NOW I KNOW WHY MOTHER DRANK ON THANKSGIVING!!!” We had a good laugh. Though it’s not how I choose to handle my stress, I guess we’re all different and that’s how she dealt with hers. I didn’t understand back in my younger days. In fact, it made me angry that she drank. While I don’t remember my mother complaining about having to “do it all,” I do though remember hearing her casually say once after I was grown and had started my own family, that “holidays were not meant for women to enjoy.” When she said it, my brain thought, “WHAT? ” How could she be so negative? She smiled after she said it but I could tell she meant it. I didn’t really understand at the time why she would say something like that, but now, I have to admit, I understand perfectly what she meant. I mean, let’s face it. On Thanksgiving, it’s usually women who make out the menu and do the shopping. It’s usually women who do all the cooking… sometimes for days! It’s usually women who get the house cleaned and decorated for company. And it’s women who usually end up cleaning up the dishes. Men come to the table to partake in the eating of this delicious meal prepared by women and then they usually retire to the den to digest their food, relax, and watch football while the women stay in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes. And the same for Christmas. Who usually does the decorating, the baking and cooking, the majority of the shopping, the gift wrapping, and again, the cooking of the Christmas meal and the clean up after the meal and the taking down and packing away of all the Christmas decorations? Women. And for all you male readers who are seething right now, I know there are exceptions out there and there are plenty of men out there who do help with all of this and are very happy to do so. I also know there are superwomen out there who can do it all, enjoy every minute of it, and not feel the least bit stressed. I’m not one of them.
So every year, right after Halloween, I find myself wishing I could fast forward life somehow to January 1st. Holidays have become so much more commercialized than they used to be. We’ve gotten so far away from the true meaning of Christmas that I lost enjoyment in it years ago. I despise all the hustle and bustle and the long list of things to do. I despise the rush to finish the holiday shopping. I despise the shopping for material things– things most people don’t need. I despise spending money I really don’t have to spend. I despise the crowds, the standing in long lines, the rudeness of people in those long lines and crowds and the fighting for parking. My husband and I went shopping one time on the day after Thanksgiving. This was many years ago and I don’t even recall it being called “Black Friday” then. Maybe it was, but there sure didn’t seem to be the emphasis on it like there is today. We both said never again. It just wasn’t our thing. You couldn’t pay me enough money to fight those crowds and deal with all those greedy, rude people. Or those LONG lines.
I felt a familiar pang of sadness the day before Thanksgiving when I realized that my favorite radio station was playing continuous Christmas music. Now, I LOVE Christmas music so I have nothing against that, but you see, my mother died six years ago and it was two weeks before Christmas when she died. She was in a Hospice residence and could no longer watch TV. One of the hospice nurses suggested we bring a radio and put it on a station that was playing continuous Christmas music. She said it would be soothing to my mother and I think it was. In fact, when she was taking her last breaths, her favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night, was playing. How ironic. So even Christmas music and especially hearing O Holy Night makes me feel all weepy and gives me a longing for years long gone.
I long to find the true holiday spirit again. The spirit of kindness and giving and love and the holy celebration of the birth of our savior. NOT materialism and shopping and short tempers. I’m going to try my best not to get caught up in all that this year. Wish me luck.
Peace, Love and Goodwill to all of you.