I want to show you something. This is me, hosting what I think was our very first Thanksgiving.
We’ve been doing this for a while now—ever since my mother really started to not be well and we couldn’t trust her to be sober enough to get out of bed and cook a bird—and now it doesn’t make me crazy, but it sure as hell did back then.
I mean, look at me. I’M COOKING IN A SKIRT AND HIGH HEELS. I’m wearing an apron, for God’s sake.
And that smile! I’m smiling even though we have two kids under two that were no doubt in various stages of destroying the house and themselves and all those hours we felt like we needed to spend wiping down the baseboards because that’s what people do, right? They walk into your house and immediately inspect your baseboards.
(Narrator: “They do not do that. No one as much as glances at your baseboards, you Mr Clean magic eraser freak.”)
Also I’m smiling that cray smile and sucking my (just had two babies in two years) belly in something fierce because I felt like all of that mattered—like I should be smiling and thin and take up as little space as possible, please and thank you, even though my marriage was falling apart under the stress of our new life that we were in no way prepared for and the turkey I’m waiting on the oven here was the first actual one I’d ever touched after decades of vegetarianism so when it came to salmonella the odds were probably very much against us all.
(Narrator: “None of that mattered, not at all. Except maybe the salmonella.”)
And, of course, despite my best efforts the turkey came out undercooked and the stuffing was too salty and we didn’t have enough dishes for everyone because the kids had smashed them or maybe I had while I yelled at Nick about how all I really wanted was to be able to go to the bathroom for once without someone needing me mid-stream and so some of us ate off of paper plates and I kept spontaneously bursting into tears while my sweet mother-in-law said the most beautiful grace.
So you’d think I’d look at this picture, you’d think I’d look at her here all smily and hiding and ignorant, and I’d be embarrassed. Or maybe sad for what she went through, or even angry, at my husband or my mom or the world or God, but I don’t feel any of that.
What I feel, you guys, is immense gratitude.
I want to grab her by the shoulders and hug her tight and thank her for her inane scrubbing and her uncontrollable tears and her stubborn insistence on couples counseling even though she wasn’t sure it was going to help and her sacred vows taken after yet another Thanksgiving where her mother was too drunk to even show up at all that no matter what—NO MATTER WHAT— she wasn’t going to give up.
Because all that junk, all that shit that wants to bury us, all it is in the end is bricks in the foundation of this house. THIS home. This place I live now where the nights still get dark but not as dark, not like it did then. This home where my mother is missed so much that her picture hangs on the walls, even though back then I couldn’t possibly imagine a future where I forgave. This place where I still set the table for what is now my favorite dinner of the year, where we gather and my mother-in-law says the most beautiful grace and I still burst into tears but this time they are the happy kind, the tears of survival.
Now I cook in sweatpants and fuzzy socks, the stains of a decade’s worth of gravies on my shirt and the stains of a decade’s worth of living in lines around my eyes. I could make a turkey in my sleep and we have dishes, more than we need, but sometimes we still eat off paper plates because it’s easier. My kids are big enough where they don’t circle underfoot and the baseboards are still atrocious but I don’t care, not one bit, because I’ve discovered the wonders of dimming the lights.
And my marriage? Well all I can say about that is when his mama’s grace makes me cry, the first person whose eyes I seek are his, and he’s usually already looking at me.
Happiest of Thanksgiving to you and to yours, friends. And if you’re struggling, please, take a lesson or two from this chick right here.
Kick off the heels. Take off the stockings and the skirt and put on something cozy. Ditch the magic eraser and find yourself a glass of wine or a cup of cheer instead. Dim the lights. Use paper plates if you need to or even if you don’t. Listen to someone’s grace and let it remind you of all that is holy and from God, INCLUDING YOU AND THIS LIFE YOU HAVE BUILT.
And then wipe your yes and dig in.
You deserve it.
Yours in love and gratitude always,