Thanksgiving (Or the first of ? Holiday posts)

When I was growing up I never remember having a Thanksgiving meal at home.

It did happen, my sister remembers it, but I don’t.

Every year we would go to the home of a family friend who threw a fabulous sit down dinner for, oh, maybe 80 people or so

Always so fun. Mostly the same people every year, which was great because we kids grew up together. Each year there was a new “kid” thing….eventually that new kid thing was drinking and smoking in the alley (the parents were alway so trashed they never noticed us sneaking booze). It really was a lot of fun, and something we looked forward to every year.

This tradition ended about the same time that I was “gently” pushed into moving out of my childhood home, which was when I was 19. I had a job , got an apartment. Maybe resented the push a bit but it was definitely time. The thing was that when I left I basically never looked back.

I started my life, and my family dynamics were such that staying away was generally a very good thing.

So I started having Thanksgiving with friends. I was always invited somewhere and was always happy to bring some food, a pie, a bottle of wine….whatever was needed. And I was always so grateful, because I didn’t have to go home. Well, probably even MORE grateful that I didn’t have to cook!  This lasted for years, all through my 20’s and most of my 30’s. As a matter of fact, I seriously only remember 2 Thanksgivings in my own home as an adult. The first was the year Tom and I bought our home. My family came over, although my mother was away taking care of a sick friend. Tom COULD cook, so it was fun, and the excitement of our new home…I remember that as such a happy day.

After that, though, Tom, Barney and I would go to someone else’s home. For years it was our dear friend’s the Stoddards, who would make dinner for whoever came, probably 25-40, depending on everyone’s circumstances. We were social and we loved going to others homes, though there usually was a comment or forty about the lack of left-overs.

The only other time we had Thanksgiving at our home was months before Tom died. The Stoddards couldn’t host and Tom and I just said ‘let’s do it” and it was a blast. We invited many of the same people who would annually be at the Stoddards  (the ones we liked, anyway) and it felt so successful that we actually discussed starting a new tradition at our home, because why not? Tom loved to cook and entertain (while we didn’t have Thanksgiving, we had lots of parties and get- togethers all year and big Xmas parties) and so that was the plan.

Anyhoo…we know how this part of the story goes..Tom was dead by the next Thanksgiving and we were all back at the Stoddards, and I was  trying to keep up the pretense that it was still a time for giving thanks for anything, and thankful for, at the least, some consistency. It sucked while at the same time being good, if that makes sense.

This year I am going to a different friends house and bringing some of the last wine I have in my home. It will be nice, the food will be good and the company lovely. My son will be with his girlfriend.

And it will be like every other holiday since Tom died, which is relatively worthless.

I think that this year I am really coming to grips with that, on a very deep level. The idea that I will never again enjoy the Holidays. I tried, when he died, to force consistency. To go to the Stoddards, to put up the tree. Hell, I even actually had a Xmas party one year, just like old times. Oh, but it wasn’t, EVER, just like old times and trying to force the issue, force the holidays into submission, if you will, was killing me.

I fought so hard because, frankly, I didn’t want to lose the holidays. I wanted to feel the love and joy ,to have presents, to eat turkey  and bake cookies,to enjoy family and friends and decorate the house within an inch of it’s life. I learned from Tom how to be a holiday person, to be a Xmas gal; I didn’t want to lose that part of him in me. But trying to fake it was all-consuming, and while I really thought it might get better as time went on, in fact it got worse, and I became more and more inept at handling the Holidays with any semblance of grace.

Two years ago on Thanksgiving day I was drunk by 10am, cried all day, dropped out of a dinner plan  and hit what I feel was my bottom in terms of drinking.  I didn’t stop then though. That Xmas I spent the day entertaining my brothers and sisters and their kids as I did every year, and constantly running to the office to refill my “coke” glass with Jack Daniels. Bombed all day.

See, I couldn’t have changed anything then,  because we were on that death march…..the holidays had become “the time before Tom died”…and starting with Thanksgiving, running through Xmas, enfolding a New Year that I did NOT want to happen we ended on January 21st, the day he died. So I could not have stopped drinking knowing what was coming, and I didn’t.

I planned on quitting on January 22, 2011. Well….it took me until March.  So these are my second sober holidays. And last year things changed without my planning. Truthfully, as I write this, I cannot remember what I did for Thanksgiving last year, I think I spent it with the same friend I am going to be with tomorrow, but I’m not positive. I do know it was the first one I spent without my son, because he was working, catering. That was hard, not having him with me. And then when it came time to decorate the house, he decided he did not want to put up the tree.  I cried, and pouted and begged and then gave it up. WTF. So I got a small, real tree and put up a minimal amount of decorations. And, surprisingly, I really liked it. The house looked cleaner, cooler and it was easier, plus so much less cleanup. We did still spend the day with my family, but at my brother’s house, not mine. It was amazing, seriously. New Years Eve has never been so big for me, I probably spent it at home, crying, whatever. And then came the “death day”, and even that was different. We were sad, we went out to dinner. We talked about Tom and we got through it. And I didn’t drink.

Things changed, and sometimes change is good. Or at least acceptance of change is good, and I have accepted the change in my feelings about the holidays. I am done with them; minimal effort is good and we get through. I don’t have to love them. I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to, although I do want to do SOMETHING, I do. I’m just not as attached to the outcome because I have accepted that the Holidays  are forever changed for me.  I have accepted that its ok for me to hate the time of year that everyone else loves and looks forward to, that I used to love and look forward to. My entire life is different than I ever expected it to be and in giving up the holidays, owning that,perhaps I will move closer to more acceptance of the real loss.

It’s tough, this road. The death march is on though, and hopefully I will handle it with more grace this year. It begins, I think,  as all things do, with the acceptance. Hup one, Hup two, hup three…..


One Comment

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  1. Acceptance, yes. Who we are and where we are. Something I needed to hear today, after waking up in pain and feeling desperate about the list of things I have to do…only I don’t, really. They don’t matter.

    The holidays are such loaded times, all the layers of memory and expectation, not to mention the sentimentality coming at us from every direction. Your post is a very beautiful sorting out of the essentials.

    Thank you.

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