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.
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