November 22, 2012

Thankfulness

Today is Thanksgiving, that day when family members far and near descend upon one house with the sole intent of stuffing themselves stupid while attempting not to kill each other.  You know it's true--there's always that one relative somewhere who creates drama or makes you crazy by criticizing everything.  And yet, we wouldn't have this day any other way.  Even though we make ourselves crazy cooking for a small army or those loved ones may drive us to drink (more than usual, at least) Thanksgiving is a chance to get everyone together for a short while, particularly those we don't get to see as often, and share delicious food and fellowship.  On the one hand, I suppose there is something inherently wrong with building up a culture based on shoveling an overabundance of food down one's throat (which might explain why the US is, as a country, probably the most overweight in the world), but then again nothing brings people together like the sharing of good food.  Comfort food.  Food which reminds us of simpler times and problems as we nestle safe in the bosom of our families.

Thanksgiving with my in-law's was always a pretty epic throw-down.  When I was first married, I loved the party atmosphere of it all because it was so different from anything I knew.  Though my mother came from a very large family, her relatives were always prohibitively far away so we usually celebrated with just the four of us.  It was nice, but very quiet.  Then I got thrown into a world with multiple parents and grandparents and siblings and cousins.  My first Southern Thanksgiving included no less than 15 people, all strategically placed around the dining and kitchen tables.  If you were "important" or "interesting" in some way, you got elevated to the dining room with the grandparents.  That's where I spent my first TN Thanksgiving--being grilled and evaluated by B's grandmother while his grandfather smirked at the other end of the table.  I became fascinated by the tiny crystal dishes set near each place, discovering later that they were "salt cellars."  Personalized salt settings??  How decadent!  We feasted on turkey and rolls and honey ham and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and jello salad and probably 5 kinds of desserts and sweet tea and green bean casserole and probably a few other items I'm forgetting.  It was glorious.  I so enjoyed partying with my new family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, because with so many people, it truly was a party.

Nobody parties like the Peanuts party.
 As the years went by, more and more tables would get set up.  In addition to the dining room and kitchen tables, folding tables would be added in the den and living room as the family grew.  By the time B's grandparents passed away, there would be (when everyone was there) upwards of 30 people.   I was in charge of deviled eggs, often making two dozen eggs' worth.  Eventually I became responsible for pies as well; I was appalled that they usually lacked the traditional pumpkin pie, generally eschewing it for pecan and/or mince pies.  So I started bringing pumpkin and apple pies.  Sometimes I brought cherry.  Invariably, though, in spite of telling me repeatedly that "no one likes pumpkin pies," that would be the first dessert obliterated.  Nor did the eggs ever last.  The kids in the family particularly enjoyed them, sneaking into the kitchen to scarf down the "debilled eggs" when no one was looking.

Fresh pumpkin pie, straight out of the oven to cool.
Sometimes it was annoying to be expected at these occasions every.single.time, whether Thanksgiving or the traditional Christmas Eve dinner/get-together at the grandparents' house.  Sometimes I wanted it just to be my little family and other times I felt bad that my own folks got short shrift, even if it was largely the result of geography.  Now that all the grandparents and all four of our parents are gone, however, I appreciate those traditions even more.  All of our siblings are scattered, so we rarely get to see them all now.  The giant family gatherings of old are no more.  We have become the older generation, and frankly, we suck at it.  Our world is moving so fast that we can barely keep up.  We have trouble making the time for each other, and we are all to blame.  Granted, it's a bit more difficult when everyone is spread over four or five different states, but still.  Now I have come full circle, and Thanksgivings these days tend to consist of just the three of us (if you don't count the Greedy Moocher Dog) and are once again rather quiet.  Not that that's an entirely bad thing, mind you; a little down-time is sometimes necessary to recharge our over-stimulated brains.  But I do miss the parties.  On the plus side, if I want to sit at the dinner table in my pajamas with my Don King hair at Thanksgiving, I can now do it without anyone pointing or shaking a head while uttering the infamous "Bless her heart."

Meanwhile, I am ecstatic to have my girlie home for the holiday and to be able to cook "real food" for her.  This is the essence of my holiday--getting to look after her once again, even if only for a moment.  I get a chance to hang onto old traditions even while celebrating all that's new in our lives and the woman she is becoming.  But I still miss those Stanton shindigs.  I still miss all the joking and laughter and teasing and tickling and eating and complaining and arguing and, well, loving.  I can only hope that I provide my girlie with even a shadow of all the joy and love I felt during those family holidays so that her great-grandparents' legacy lives on.  Perhaps that's part of what it means to be thankful--we aren't just thankful for what we have right this minute, but also for what's gone before and for what's yet to come.  We are thankful just to be.  At least I hope we are.

Sometimes I think that's an important thing to remember, especially after the last couple of weeks here, which were decidedly NOT "quiet weeks in Lake Woebegone."  Not even a little. In the past couple of weeks I voted in a presidential election, twisted an ankle, pondered if I could back-date enough posts to catch up on BlogHer's NaBloPoMo for November after my continued writing delinquency, been accused of discrimination over an (I thought) innocuous grammar joke, given myself junior whiplash, had a "freckle" biopsied, worried about friends with major medical issues, traumatized my dog--who apparently suffers from PTSD whenever I try to use my FIL's exercise bicycle, and more or less been given the heave-ho by the unstable minister at my current church, simply because I chose to leave the service (discreetly) before his sermons, even though the majority of the congregation (choir included) didn't know why, if they'd noticed at all.  Needless to say, it's been quite a couple of weeks.  Well, like I always say, go big or go home.


"Woe--Be gone!"
Since all that happened I have written and re-written blog posts chronicling everything several times over (in my head, anyway) and once even wrote an actual draft.  (What most of you  probably don't know is that I actually mentally write blog posts daily--I have a running dialogue in my head; I just sometimes suck at the discipline of setting them down on the page and actually publishing them.)  What I wrote never seemed quite right, though, and as much as I love a good rant I ultimately decided to let it all go. Complaining wasn't going to make a biopsy come back negative or a man in serious need of psychological help suddenly "get it" or convince a friend to have approached me in a less negative way.  In fact, ranting about those things would probably have only made them all worse.  Besides, all I could think about while crafting these missives was how inappropriate posting them would be during a month with the theme of "thankfulness."  So I didn't.

Instead, I'd like to wind up this post with a nod to the pervasive internet meme in which everyone says something they are thankful for each day.  As usual, I'm running more than a little late.  (I like to tell everyone my daughter was born two weeks late and that neither of us has been on time for anything since.)  Doesn't make me any less thankful, though.

Thankfulness

Day   1:  I am thankful first and foremost for my lovely, brilliant daughter and for the joy she gives me
              and inspiration she is to me each and every day of the year, even when she is driving me nuts.
Day   2:  I am thankful to have a husband who, in spite of everything, puts up with most of my bullshit and
              indulges me far more than I probably deserve.  Of course the same is true in reverse, even if
              he won't admit it.
Day   3:  I am thankful that my daughter has found both a wonderful church family on campus and an
              SCA family to corrupt her and protect her and challenge her and harass her much as I
              would myself.  It's very difficult to be so far away from her so much of the time, but it helps to
              know she has such remarkable friends nearby to support her.  Or torture her, as the case may be.
              (What are friends for, right?)

My kid is now part of the Mongol horde, and a royal one at that.
(Maybe now I can get away with telling her when she's being royal pain...)

Day   4:  I am thankful to have been promoted to Director of Irony because it allows me to appreciate
              the humor in life's stupid situations, such as when I go to Bed, Bath and Beyond the day after
              all three of my coupons expire, only to get home and find a fresh one in my mailbox or when
              I perfectly cook a turkey and pies but manage to burn the ridiculously no-brainer pop-up
              cinnamon rolls because I'm too busy writing this to pay attention to them.
Day   5:  I am thankful for a democratic process in my country that allows my voice to be heard.  I will be
              even more thankful when it is over.
Day   6:  I am thankful for this anniversary of my parent's union, for without them I wouldn't be who I
              am today.  (Sorry about that.)
Day   7:  I am thankful for friends who care enough to educate me about potential biases, even if I'd
              sometimes prefer they find more positive ways to do so.
Day   8:  I am thankful for the snoring dog under my desk because she keeps me company each day in an
              otherwise empty, quiet house.  Plus it's really entertaining to watch her paws twitch and flick while
              she's dreaming.
Day   9:  I am thankful for the crisp autumn air and for beautifully colored leaves which make my heart sing
              (and some of which match my hair).
Day 10:  I am thankful for leftover Lortab and for its ability to allow me to sleep in spite of frozen neck
              muscles.  This does not make me a drug addict; my only crack is candy corn, which is not only
              tasty but can be used for building creative models of Stonehenge.

Cornhenge:  Because life is always less boring when you can play with your candy.
Day 11:  I am thankful for technology, even though it frequently gets me into trouble by sucking away all my
              time and making me "ooh, squirrel" even more than usual, because it allows me to stay connected
              to family and friends far away and magically enables me to see my girlie every Sunday night from
              1,000 miles away.
Day 12:  I am thankful for the smell of cinnamon, which reminds me of snickerdoodles and cinnamon
              rolls and is way the heck better than any number of old lady perfumes that surround me
              on a daily basis.
Day 13:  I am thankful for the opportunity to attempt to sing beautiful music every Tuesday night.
Day 14:  I am thankful each and every day for friends far and wide who dare to love me in spite of my
              inherent weirdness. Or maybe because of my inherent weirdness, though I'm not sure what
              that says about them.
Day 15:  I am thankful for dear choir friends who surround me with love and support when things suck.
Day 16:  I am thankful for loose pants.  I don't mean pants that are sexually promiscuous, but rather pants
              that no longer fit so snugly on my body.  I mean they could be sexually promiscuous; I don't
              really keep up with what my pants do when I'm not wearing them.  For all I know, they're getting
              a leg up on each other and panting in the closet.  Dirty, dirty pants.
Day 17:  I am thankful for all (almost) types of music, which can make my heart and spirit soar and can
              make almost anything better.  I am also thankful that so much music lends itself to my off-beat
              parodies, even (especially) television theme songs.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,
              right?  Just today the girlie shared a pic from FB which read "If you're happy and you know it,
              share your meds."  Naturally, I spent several minutes singing this and creating additional verses
              to the song.  (Don't look at me that way.  Please--like you're not singing it in your head right 
              now.)  Sometimes drugs make Thanksgiving better, too.
Day 18:  I am thankful for books and the ability to read them.  I like big books and I cannot lie.  I also
              like small books, medium books, lame books, profound books, mystery books, science fiction
              books, classical books, chick lit books, philosophical books (why do I suddenly feel like I'm
              singing "Jellicle Books?"), and educational books.  I like being transported to different times and
              places and being challenged with new ideas.  Also, in a pinch, books make good door stops and/or
              paddles.
Day 19:  I am thankful to be home and healthy, and not in a hospital recovering from an appendectomy
              right before Thanksgiving like last year, even though it was kind of fun to boss around my family
              over the dinner and subsequent Christmas decorating.
Day 20:  I am thankful for the means and ability to purchase ample food each and every day, not just
              for Thanksgiving.  Of course, that might explain some of my weight gains over the years, but still.
Day 21:  I am thankful to see numbers on my scale that I have not seen in close to 10 years and that I have
              a place to hide this normally judgmental scale from the results of my Thanksgiving overindulgences.
Day 22:  I am thankful to have my lovely daughter home from college and to be able to cook for her again,
              in between taking time to both hug her and make fun of her in equal doses.

Yes, I know there are 8 more days of November left.  Those are a story I have yet to write.  Does your thankfulness end on Thanksgiving?  Will it get lost in Black Friday and the mad, chaotic rush to Christmas?  How will the rest of your November thankfulness story finish?

Before I write the rest of my story, though, it's time for me to make the potatoes and stuffing.  I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings, full of family, friends, food, and fun.  With love from Lake Not Woebegone, where all the Gingers are strong, all the husbands are reasonably good looking in spite of being a half-century old, and all the children are flamboyantly above average in all things whether you want them to be or not.

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