It’s funny how when you’re young, happily tripping through Thanksgiving and Christmas, comfortably surrounded by a couple dozen relatives, you assume that holidays will always be like that…ya know… joyful, playful…forever.
And by you I mean me.
Then a few years later, your brother dies in a tragic accident. He’s gone…along with your believe in the fairness and okayness of life. During Thanksgiving, everyone tries really hard…going through the empty, rehearsed motions of complimenting the wonderful dinner and discussing the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. Deep in your heart, you want to scream that every holiday should be cancelled until you don’t feel so broken anymore. Everyone wants to scream that. But instead they smile weakly and carry on.
Eight years later and 3,000 miles away.
You’ve married into a loud, funny, boisterous family of in-laws, with lots of cousins and turkey and card games and free-flowing wine and smiling group photos. They celebrate holidays with full-force happiness. You feel like an outsider, eavesdropping on this carefree tribe that isn’t broken like the one you came from.
But that doesn’t last forever either. It never does.
And by you, I still mean me.
The loud, boisterous, laughing in-law family…the one that seemed impervious to anything bad happening….where everyone lived within 20 miles of each other, is now splintered. Eight or so members have moved hundreds of miles away to where the jobs are. And two of the funniest, most lively ones have died tragically, unbelievably. You hurt so badly for your sister-in-law, niece and nephews, enduring the same crippling ache that punched you in the heart so many years ago.
Time marches on. 3,000 miles backward.
You’re glad to be back home where you came from. The broken family that you’d left has been haphazardly glued back together, with new hobbies, Prozac and staying too busy at work. A brother-in-law and two nephews have been added. Your dad can still brighten the room with his hilarious jokes and childhood stories. Your mom is an amazing cook. You see traces of your brother in your nephew’s handsome smile. New holiday memories are forming around four rowdy grand boys. But you still find yourself feeling sad inside, wishing for the storybook Thanksgivings that everyone else appears to be having.
And I’m still writing you, but talking about me.
Five years later. You’re still unpacking boxes in a house that feels foreign. Your husband’s job promotion has uprooted the four of you once again. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it’s starting to snow outside. You fondly recall your mother-in-law’s hash brown casserole, wishing you could enjoy one more holiday with those who remain of that lively bunch. Maybe one day…when you have extra time and money. But traveling to California is expensive and vacation days are used up.
It’s the first Thanksgiving without your dad, who passed away in March. Being so busy with the move you haven’t let yourself grieve, although, right now, you ache for him. You want more than anything to put your arms around him and tell him that you love him. To hear his laughter and see the warm smile that always filled his eyes.
Your mom, sister and nephews are spending the last Thanksgiving in the house you grew up in before it’s sold this-coming Spring. When your husband and boys had the idea of spending the holiday weekend deer hunting at a mountain lodge, you said “sure, that sounds good.” Why, oh why didn’t you insist on driving the nine hours back home?
But your mom will be driving up to spend December with you. A new chapter of holidays in Virginia will be written. Change. I guess we all go through it. Holidays coming and going, morphing with family dynamics.
Tomorrow, at a strange hunting lodge in the middle of nowhere, you’ll embrace Thanksgiving 2014 and the time you have with your great, little family. You don’t want these days to end. But you know they will.
Thanks for letting me be you for a while. I’ll go back to being me now. Some things are just easier written in second person.