I started the day thankful for many things. But the day is always tinged with profound sadness — it was my mother’s favorite holiday and she has been gone for 7 years. She loved having everyone around the table at a holiday where she didn’t have to say any blessings. So, Passover always lost to Thanksgiving in my mother’s mind. I try not to focus on my loss, but on her legacy. It is hard.
Ok, back to being thankful:
I was thankful for a fun time with my son early Thursday (the rest of the weekend turned out to be one long tantrum interspersed with breaks of humanity). I was especially thankful that my son had no interest in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. I was thankful for the ability to go to the gym and then pick up last minute items as well as fruit and wine.
I was not thankful that my father-in-law came by 3 hours early. I think that since my sister-in-law was coming over to spend time with our son (and she was staying with my father-in-law), he couldn’t bear the thought of paying two cab fares from the east side to the west side of Manhattan. Luckily, he didn’t expect to be entertained.
I was grateful that POB (partner of blogger) made everything. (I plated the food, arranged the table, seating, etc., and I do a lot of clean-up, lest you think that I am a total parasite.)
I was grateful that I bought good wine, knowing my father would bring $3.50 bottles from Trader Joe’s. He lost his sense of taste a while ago and thinks no one else can tell the difference.
Note the similarities in the underlying behaviors of my father and father-in-law, two men who are, as far as we know, genetically unrelated. Some unknown cross-pollination some generations back in the old country? Nah, old men and their wallets. Crow bars are often necessary to pry them open.
I am grateful that my father was able to make the event. He didn’t look so good and he had some tightness in his chest. Still, he felt good enough to push my every emotional button, so the new heart medication must be working. I wonder if my sister has spoken to my brother about Dad’s heart disease. Dad didn’t want to tell him because he lives so far away. “Why worry him?” (Maybe because you are 89 and have heart disease and he should come for a visit?) I could write a dissertation on this.
My aunt and uncle (my mother’s brother and wife) never respond to invitations. They just show up. And, they are usually up to an hour late. As they’ve gotten older, I worry after an hour, so I called. It seems that I used the wrong email addresses for them and they never received the emails about Thanksgiving. Of course, after spending the holiday together in my parents’ home or ours for over 40 years, you might expect that they would call or email if they received no information about the holiday. No, not even to make sure we were alive.
I of course was mortified and thought my mother would send a lightening bolt from Heaven that would singe the tips of my loafers, as if to say, “Tootsie, you know how they are. It IS your responsibility to carry them, if necessary, to a holiday event.” I was miserable with sadness and the knowledge that somewhere in the firmament, my mother was disappointed. Excuse me while I consider dignified ways to throw myself in front of a bus (it should be a new bus; not one that looks like it ran over another person already).
(Subsequently, my sister sent them emails to explain again what happen and to tell them I was overwhelmed with embarrassment. I think that made the peace. Rule No. 6 of Jewish Family Dysfunction: As long as you are inconsolable about the lapse, any hard feelings are assuaged.) Another time, I will go through Rules 1-5.
We had brisket instead of turkey (see the dissertation in my prior blog entry). It is part of our new movement, carnivoretarians (we eat what we like, without regard to people’s feelings and fervently-held beliefs). Carnivoretarians have a motto, “Save a Turkey, Eat a Brisket.”
True to our credo, we ate brisket, and, true to our American heritage, we ate all of the fixings that go along with a turkey dinner. The brisket was delicious.
We had lots of food which, as we know more and more about world hunger, made me a little sad and self-conscious. We sent things home with guests in faux Tupperware (that is, our stock of high-end take-out plastics). We brought food to our friends in Sag Harbor whom we visited Friday through Saturday night. Still we have so much.
I ended the day thankful that my family came and left, that we don’t celebrate Christmas so we have no cultural imperative to shop the next day for sales.
Thanksgiving has that way of starting out with unbounding hope and gratitude for the gifts in one’s life and ends in the narrow gratitude of an empty house, a running dishwasher and a comfy bed.
I was also thankful that this is not the first Thanksgiving without my mother. For a friend, this is her first Thanksgiving since burying her mother. The firsts of everything are so miserable that one has to stay so busy so as not to notice the holidays are happening. But memories creep in and the heart gets tight with sadness. Our mothers raised strong daughters, so we soldier on. May her mom rest in peace and her memory continue to be a blessing her life and the lives of her family.