Our Thanksgivings are never quite what I envision them to be.
In my mind’s eye…
My entire family is dressed in coordinating Fall colors. I, of course, have my pearls on and my cheeks are decidedly rosy with excitement and autumnal (my new favorite word) exuberance. We applaud my Mom’s hard work and ooohhh and aaahhhh at the impressive spread she magically produces year after year after year. The children are well-behaved and don’t begin eating until we do and do not request refills until we are finished with our food. We all laugh and talk and then go around the table and express what our hearts are most grateful for….
Apparently, my mind’s eye is a sissy and a stubbornly delusional one, at that.
Cause that up there ain’t happening. Never has…most likely never will.
One year, we did decide to share what we were thankful for. We started with my eldest brother, Matt, who sits at the rear of the table (as opposed to head where my Daddy sits). Matt looked to his right at my brother Jerry and said, decisively, “I’m thankful for Jerry.” Jerry then said “I’m thankful for Amy”, who was, you guessed it, sitting to his right. Amy was thankful for Pete (on her right), who was thankful for Dad (on his right) who was thankful for Mom (on his right) who was thankful for me (on her right), who was thankful for my sister-in-law, Kaci, who ended our game by saying “I’m thankful for Matt.” We all burst out laughing, my Daddy thanked God for the food, and we dug in like the irreverent heathens we are.
And then there was the day when my brother, Pete, started a new Thanksgiving tradition after noting that cows (who have all those extra stomachs) could eat all they wanted – all day, even – and never seem uncomfortable. Thus, after gorging on turkey and dressing every year, he would go into the living room and get on all fours, letting his full American belly hang in relief and disgustingness. Lovely, yes? (But hey…don’t knock it till you try it).
I have titled this year’s holiday “Thanksgiving or Bust.” Last Sunday night at 5:00, no one I knew was sick and we had grandiose plans for the coming week, nearly every minute reserved. Exactly one hour later, Gideon threw up in my Mom’s kitchen floor, and from that moment on, the family steadily toppled like dominoes, beginning with Rebekah, then me, then Betsie, Mom, Dad, Matt, Amy, Abigail, Kate, my cousin, his wife, his daughter, and our friends (and houseguests last weekend) Zac and Chrissy. Our mapped out week was spent purging ourselves and then painstakingly disinfecting our houses. Did we still spend every last minute of the holidays together and partake in a gargantuan Thanksgiving meal, regardless of all the vomit and what-not? You bet we did. Thanksgiving or bust.
Today, as I sat at the kitchen table putting on my make-up while the kids played Play-Doh, I realized that in the disjointedness and mild trauma of our week I hadn’t even discussed “what we’re thankful for” with them.
“Did you guys have a happy Thanksgiving?” I asked.
They both nodded.
“Well what are you thankful for?” I prompted.
Gideon piped up first. “I’m thankful for this beautiful land God made.” After a thoughtful pause he added “And I’m thankful that I’m eating all my food and growing up.”
I noticed the small pile of green Play-Doh peas he was making and remembered with no small amount of guilt the Thanksgiving lecture I had given him in the bathroom…the lecture that included my accidentally telling him that if he didn’t eat his green beans, he would die. (I meant eventually, not right then…).
Moving on. “How about you, Rebekah?” I asked.
“Ummm…” she contemplated. “I’m thankful for…my bed for my baby for Christmas.”
Well, I suppose it is alright to be thankful for what Santa is going to bring you…she has a lot of faith, this girl.
“What are you thankful for Chris?” I later asked.
“You.” he replied, never looking up from his book.
I looked at Betsie, sitting in her chair beside him, who smiled at me adoringly. “You.” she also replied, albeit silently…I could see it in her eyes.
And me? Well…I am still thankful for the person on my right. And I’m also thankful that when God draws you to a life that is founded on love and gratitude, you don’t have to have a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. You can eat until you’re about to burst with the family you thank God for day in and day out and then you can get on all fours in the living room and let your belly hang down like a cow while your cousin is throwing up in the bathroom…
Its just how we do Thanksgiving.
Always have…most likely always will.
I honestly don’t think I’d change a thing.