Oh yeah. I did it. Up at 7:00 AM baking cookies. Watched those Rockettes kick higher than the Empire State Building. Saw Harry Potter singing in a suit and bow tie with John Larroquette (Didn’t I see that last year too? Wasn’t it just as strange then?). Watched my better half cook enough food for a small army and then wrap it up and wedge it into the back of our dilapidated minivan, steaming up the windows and smelling like an aphrodisiac. One hour later dinner at my sister-in-laws sitting at the kids table eating and eating some more. Walked off two forkfuls of mashed potatoes on the beach with my kids. Then back for dessert. Ended the day with Charlie Brown and Lady GaGa. Finally stumbled into bed with a food hangover, a raging fibromyalgia attack, a profound sadness.
I hear from so many people these days say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. It feels less stressful, easier, more singular in focus, free of religious overtones and guilt, less expensive. The expectations are lower, the carbohydrate intake is higher. All in all it’s a great day.
And it was. I enjoyed my family, I witnessed only minor dysfunction, I felt full and grateful, the sun shone, the beach was glorious, I didn’t have to cook or clean a lot (thank you TXN), and my sister-in-law lent me 3 new books to read. It really was a day to be thankful for.
Yes, here it comes. The but…
My mother wasn’t here.
Truthfully, it has been a long time since my mother played a significant role in my Thanksgiving. I’ve been out in the world quite a while now. Cooking my own turkeys and pies, buying my own rust colored table linens, getting the lumps out of the gravy or sitting at other dining room tables and oohing/ahing over bowls of white and orange vegetables.
But talking to my father 300 miles away, his voice flat and dull, a pretend voice, empty without her, I am filled with abandonment and loneliness. All day it rattles and wheezes inside of me, like stale air, so that by midnight, stuffed with food and small hapinesses and the confusion of watching Charlie Brown and Lady Gaga in one night, I’m engorged. Like those Macy’s Day Parade balloons, I feel enormous and unwieldy and held to the ground only by a proverbial thread.
This morning I came to slowly, shook off bad dreams and joint pain, made french toast for my kids, started reading A Secret Kept, started thinking about every chapter–how it hooked me in, made me want to keep reading to find out more, how it screwed up point of view and distracted me, how it introduced new characters successfully and not so successfully, and how I loved it. Because I was dissecting it, learning from it and the whole time enjoying the ride.
Books help. They take me away and bring me back and then take me away again. They get me in front of this computer, to this blog, and to my own sense of myself as a writer. They get me through Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Holy Saturday, Fat Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Hanukkah, Ground Hog’s Day, Friday the 13th, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and even my own damn birthday. I love books. Can’t imagine where I’d be without them.