Prepping for that uniquely American holiday called “Thanksgiving” this year will be a pretty simple affair in my home this upcoming Thursday. Although this is technically “my” holiday this year with my two teenagers, their dad has been ridiculously busy these past couple of months and hasn’t seen the punkers since the beginning of August. The distance between us – him in Alabama, me in South Florida – makes quick weekends a bit more problematic. That’s not cool, him going so long without spending some time with his offspring, so I offered to give them this five-day long weekend together. He was also able to score excellent seats for the Iron Bowl -- that annual state-wide football throw-down between Auburn and Alabama – so, in addition to being well-fed by their extended step-family, they’ll have a great time in the middle of that chaos as well.
I am in fact quite a selfish bitch, so this really isn’t a Hallmark moment: it’s just the right thing to do. I figure, this man hit my hot spot well enough to produce these two amazing kids with me, so I do what I can to co-parent well with him. Besides, I’m sooooo not linear about the holidays, and some of the best have been unexpected moments of pure joy in my life having nothing to do with the "right" time or the “right” foods or the “right” place-settings.
Several years ago, I planned to take my kids – then nine and eleven years old – on a river cruise for Thanksgiving. I didn’t bother to lay in a supply of groceries, figuring I’d give myself a break from the incessant food-shopping routine and just hit the store the day after our big outing. Instead, on Thanksgiving Day, I woke up with a raging inner ear infection. My equilibrium was shot – I couldn’t get off the couch without getting nauseous. Instead of being disappointed, my kids put our Thanksgiving dinner together with the couple of items they found in the pantry they felt comfortable cooking without me watching. They popped in an episode of one of my all-time favorite series we watched together at that time: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Four, Episode eight, called “Pangs.” (The punkers, of course, did not realize at the time that one reason I favor this episode is because Spike is tied up through most of it ;) Then they presented me with dinner: Kraft macaroni and cheese piled high in the middle of a serving dish, surrounded by carefully-placed garnish – Strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts. It was an awesome – and humbling -- day. A moment of pure joy – one of those moments to recall when I have those other moments when I seriously considering wrapping my hands around my family members’ throats…and squeezing. Hard.
So, this Thursday, while my emergent adults spend time with another group of people who love them, I’ll be watching that episode of Buffy – happily day-dreaming that I have Spike tied up in my dining room -- and chowing down on Kraft mac-&-cheese and Strawberry frosted Pop-Tarts, grateful that I somehow managed to raise a couple of people who understand that families come in many shapes and styles, that dinner from a couple of boxes can come wrapped in as much care and love as a meal that takes days to prepare – and that gratitude is a state of mind, not a day.
The picture below? Nothing – and everything -- to do with my writing. Just my daughter in one of those moments of joy. I hope you experience similar ones yourself during this upcoming holiday season.