I’m prepping Thanksgiving side dishes & feeling nostalgic, so I’m going to take this opportunity to dump all of this emotion on to the page.
Thanksgiving has meant a lot of things to me over the years … First I loved the holiday. As a child, when we gathered at my aunt & uncle’s house with all of our relatives, Thanksgiving made me feel a part of something bigger; I felt a sense of family, (which was especially important as a child of divorce.) I remember silly things like how my aunt tried to get us to eat sweet potatoes by putting marshmallows on top. (Note: I still loathe sweet potatoes!) I never even actually liked much of the food – I only really loved all the memories we made with our cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Then, people started dying. And Thanksgiving only meant missing those who weren’t there … first my grandfather, then my grandmother, (who was second in line as my best friend, only missing the top spot because my mother held that place.) A great aunt, a second cousin … the herd was thinning out.
And then my father died. He died the Monday before Thanksgiving 16 years ago. There was a time where I couldn’t type that without sobbing. Now I only have little misty tears in my eyes to blur these letters. Time really does heal wounds. Our relationship was … complicated. And that is another post for another day, but as I’ve explained to so many people in my life, it really doesn’t matter what the relationship was – he was my father. At one time, he was my hero. A lot happened between being my hero & being dead. A lot that I never need to tell anyone. And I probably won’t. But for a long time, I dreaded Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was sad. And I felt alone, even though I was surrounded by other family or very close friends. For a long time Thanksgiving was just a reminder that many of the people that I once loved to share the holiday with were no longer here. So I tried to do things like jet off to Vegas with a boyfriend & forget that it was some meaningful family holiday, or drink myself into oblivion with my best friend. That only made me feel empty inside. It never made the sorrow disappear.
And then I had my own family. What a world of difference that has made for me these past three years. I say three years, even though The Husband & I have been married for longer than that … We had Thanksgivings, but it wasn’t a true “family” Thanksgiving until The Boy arrived. And while the past 2 Thanksgivings have been special, this one is probably my new favorite.
Truth be told, I pretty much forgot that my father died 16 years ago yesterday, simply because my son – the light of my life – didn’t let me for one, single second, forget that I was present and in the moment … in his moment. We didn’t do anything particularly special. We ran errands, we laughed, we played … we lived. We lived our normal, usual lives … full of potty breaks, making sandwiches, putting smiley faces on his new chore chart, and reading the same books we always do.
So now Thanksgiving means something better again. Something happier. My son, The Boy, 3 years and then some, fully understands the meaning of Thanksgiving this year. He has watched The Peanuts “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” 90 times in the past 3 weeks, and knows who Captain Myles Standish is & who Samoset, (the first Native American Indian that the Pilgrims met,) is as well. He tells me “Mommy, Halloween is all over, now it’s Thanksgiving, and then it will be Christmas.”
Making new memories is a lot better than remembering old ones … and, although I won’t ever forget them, I just cannot let them weigh my heart down. The Boy needs me to be present. The Husband needs me to be present. I need me to be present. So, I will raise a glass to honor the dead, to give my thanks for the memories we’ve had … and for the memories we’ve yet to make.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone … Life Is Beautiful.