Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey lessons.

I was fine until I started to doubt myself. My decision... to not cook a big Thanksgiving meal for my family.  Had I done the right thing?  If it's my dad's last Thanksgiving day and I didn't make it special for him, would I live with regret?

While growing up I can count on one hand the number of times my mother actually cooked the full meal and we had our family over.  Instead we almost always ate at one of my mom's sister's houses.

Thanksgivings were filled with a house full of relatives and many cousins to play with all day. It was boisterous. Us kids, the cousins, would be downstairs digging out the ouija board, watching football, or wrestling with one another. The adults would set up at the dining room table in between rounds of food. They might break out the dice and play 6-5-4 with nickels. Or play some kind of rummy. The only thing we knew was that once the game began, it signaled to us we weren't going home any time soon. I loved to soak in the laughter of my mom and her sisters. They're all funny and cackle when they laugh. You find yourself laughing along with them, while not really being sure what they are laughing at.

Today, most of my cousin's families are too big now to gather in one place. Too many of us moving in too many directions. We gather once a year for a Christmas potluck which always gets us reminiscing about  how we used to spend our holidays.  Now we watch our kids play in the basement like we once did.

But it doesn't mean I don't miss the way it used to be.  And so last year I attempted to recreate a bit of the fun. I cooked a big meal, and we even did a craft. We made an advent calendar to count down till Christmas. But it took tons of preparation on my part. Lots of planning and time.

I just didn't have it in me this year. Between this new brand of hockey we've encountered which literally means 6 nights out of the week going to the rink, and me doing daycare all day... I just didn't feel like I could pull it off.

But I heard the disappointment in my dad's voice the other day when he called to ask what our plans were. He fully expected to be coming to my house for dinner and I felt horrible telling him not this year. We offered to take mom and dad with us out to eat. They declined. Dad's oxygen requirements are greater than ever. Walking across the room saps his energy these days.  I did extend a last minute invite for pie later in the day... but I was steeped in remorse for not having tried to plan better.

Yesterday, Rick and I and the boys loaded into our truck and set off for dinner at a downtown hotel. The boys had tried to pitch a fit about our dress requirements, but they crossed the wrong mommy. Begrudgingly, they both showered and dressed.

And then a strange thing occurred. I saw Nolan hold the door for someone at the hotel.  And then Colton rushed to open a door for someone struggling with too much in their hands. They both tried a little of every dish without making rude comments. They also thanked their dad for bringing them to a nice place. We had required more from them, and they had responded by being more.

Having the boys dressed so nice gave us the idea to take some pictures. We walked downtown and despite a chill in the air, the sun was shining. The boys cooperated with the many requests of their dad until they got cold.  We got some really fun photos and hopefully a Christmas card can be produced from some of them.

We headed home for pie with grandpa and grandma.  We were all relaxed.  We sat around talking for hours.  I quizzed mom and dad about how Thanksgiving was celebrated when they were growing up.  I heard all about butcher days, and how they both had goose more than turkey although it was so greasy neither of them really liked it.

At the end of the evening I realized, dinner didn't make our Thanksgiving what it was. In a lot of ways, my instincts had been right. Because I wasn't stressed and working in the kitchen all day, I got to sit and enjoy my parent's company.  I wasn't distracted, but fully engaged.  I was surprised to see how much they wanted to talk.  In the end, instead of feeling regret, I realized how full of gratitude I was.

17 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Vicky...I read this...and read it again. First of all, may I compliment your sons on their manners...and their caring. Something they didn't get from just standing outside, looking up, and hoping it would 'fall' on them. No... I know where those came from...and you as parents should be very proud of yourselves...as well as your sons.
    Next, I am so glad that you were able to spend quality time with your parents. The full attention that you got to share with them is MUCH greater than the turkey and trimmngs which disappear too quickly That special time you chose to spend together will last forever.
    And...my friend...I am counting on the fact that you will be spending another such Thanksgiving with your Daddy again next year. That is my prayer. You are a wonderful Wife, Mother, and Daughter. (I capitalized those for a reason...because you are a special lady.)
    With warm smiles,
    Jackie
    P.S. That deleted comment above was mine. (I kan't spel.) :))

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  3. Oh, girlie. I loved this... every tiny little bit of this. You were thankful and present in your moments... that's all this holiday is supposed to be about.

    Love you!

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  4. Jackie, you are making me blush :) Thanks sweetie for all of your kind words and encouragement.

    Sara, I had you in mind yesterday and owe you for helping me shape my ever shifting perspective! Love you too girlie :)

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  5. Dearest Vicky...I understand the mixture of feelings...but I think what your Dad looked forward to most was the time with those he loves...and that is EXACTLY what resulted from your day...not necessarily the way any of you imagined...but a day of love and treasured moments, nevertheless. You and your family are an inspiration of love, and selflessness...I am amazed by the extraordinary character of each of you...and of your boys...and know that GREAT parenting has an awful lot to do with it!!!! I truly admire you! Have a wonderful holiday weekend!!! Love, Janine XO

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  6. What a wonderful lesson for us all. We have to remember that the holidays, meals, rituals, etc. are simply excuses to bring together the people we love. And as you say, Vicky, if you are so caught up in the preparations you are not relaxed and not as receptive.

    So happy your Thanksgiving turned out so well - for your immediate family and for your parents!!

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  7. That's what it is all about. Just being with the ones we love is more than enough and more satisfying that the richest of food.

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  8. This is such an awesome post! I remember the holidays with tons of cousins at grandma's.
    You have done an awesome job with your boys!

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  9. It's all about being with family, not so much about the whole big meal thing. My family and I have spent many holiday's quitely at home just being together. I think your choice not to cook was a wise one.

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  10. What a neat story. Sounds like you have two little gentlemen :)

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  11. What wonderful sons you have raised...stepping up to the bar and shining. I know exactly what you mean about not cooking a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Last year, no one was coming home for Christmas so the DH & I decided the first time ever not to put up a big tree as we have always done. Of course, our kids planned a surprise visit and we all ended up having Christmas together. I was initially so upset about not doing so knowing they were home and I wanted the Christmas to be what it had always been. Alas, the tree didn't matter but the time spent together was what really mattered. So true with your folks...just the company and conversation is what matters most.

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  12. Vicky, I am so glad yo got to appreciate some quality time with your parents. something that might not have happened if you were slaving over cooking a big dinner. Entertaining can be busy and stressful.

    I am from such a small family that I always love to hear stories about big family gatherings as I would have loved to experience the fun of may cousins. Alas or families are what they are and making the most of what we have is what it is really all about.

    It made me smile to here about how well behaved your boys were. It's sch a pleasing feeling to know that manners you are teaching are rubbing off.

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  13. You followed your heart, even when it didn't make sense to your head.
    This is a lesson I'm tucking away.
    Thinking of you and your precious parents this holiday season...
    ~R

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  14. There's really nothing that I can add here. I think all the ladies before me said it all so well, so I just say...I agree with everyone else (is that cheating?) You are a wonderful mom, wife, and daughter. Your family is lucky to have you:)

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  15. Like you rightly said, it's not food or the opulence but the time spent that makes most of the difference! I am sure your parents appreciated your company too! At a time when your dad most needs everyone around, you gave him that by being there. Wish your dad good health..take care

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  16. Vicky, this is beautiful. Really, REALLY TRULY. I was so afraid you were going to end with regrets but you followed your heart and God's leading and it gave you so much more than you could have FORCED yourself to create.

    I will hang on to this and try to remind myself that when I can't do everything, I just may get MORE rather than less. Thank you, sweet friend!

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