Wednesday, November 26, 2014

we're those people

Thanks a lot, divorce! You’ve thrown a crimp into one of my most time honored traditions! When it came to Thanksgiving, my ex-husband and I had always alternated years with each other’s families. It worked so well when we were married that we kept it going after we separated. But just when it appeared that I’d orchestrated a seamless transition, my mother announced that she wasn’t cooking dinner on the years that I didn’t have the kids.

There would be no over the river and through the woods. There would be no brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends gathered round the long dining room table. The over-sized ceramic platter with the turkey on it would stay buried in the back of the cabinet for yet another year because we were now going to be one of those families, the kind that go to a restaurant for Thanksgiving -- the kind I always felt sorry for because they didn’t get to have a home-cooked meal, because they didn’t get to break a loaf of white bread into little pieces for stuffing while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in their pajamas, because the crevices of their homes wouldn’t smell of turkey and the myriad of trimmings, because they couldn’t wear slippers at the dinner table and linger over dessert and watch TV in the family room and have leftovers.

It was weird not to wake up early and start cooking, so I went for a run… my own personal turkey trot. I ran past houses where there were lots of cars parked in driveways, and I convinced myself that they were all having the Rockwell Thanksgiving that I was being deprived of.

That evening, I reluctantly slipped on a fancy dress and heels, and climbed into the backseat of my dad’s car. Even though I was in my 30‘s, I felt like I was 15. I sat in the middle, scooted up to the edge, and leaned my elbows on the front seats so I wouldn’t miss anything. But I was missing something -- my kids and my parents’ bustling house. It’s funny though, once we got to the restaurant and the waiter popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, I started to warm to the idea of being served, of not having to make sure the turkey, gravy, and 42 side dishes were ready at the same time and still piping hot, of not having to get up from the table 20 times to run to the kitchen for something someone wanted, of not eating to the brink of explosion, and of not having to wash a single plate!

It wasn’t what we wanted, but it’s what we made work. And now, it’s a tradition. Every other year, we’re those people -- those people who order from a menu, and you know what… I’m thankful for that! I’m thankful for the people still gathered at that table. I’m thankful that my ex and I hatched a plan that works for our kids. I’m thankful for the memories of my childhood Thanksgivings, and I’m thankful that every other year I don’t have to wash dishes... and that every other year, I do!

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