Monday, October 8, 2012
Giving Thanks . . . and Being Honest . . .
Photos of the colourful blooms, leaves, and berries enlivening my autumn garden.
So much to be thankful for. We had our Thanksgiving dinner here on Saturday evening to accommodate the working schedule of New Daughter-in-Law. The newlyweds were accompanied by DIL's brother to round out our table nicely and help compensate for the absence of our other three couples who chose to celebrate the holiday together in Vancouver. Ferry travel gets crazy on this long weekend with long line-ups and sailing waits, so we're especially pleased to have one of ours still on Vancouver Island, even if there are 90 driving minutes between us.
Grateful as I was with our meal, the company, my overall good fortune, I recognize a small voice of the young woman [edited to clarify: the young woman is my younger self] who wonders if I should host a bigger and better table. The ones I remember our parents hosting, all china and silverware and every chair shanghaied into service, a kids' table off to the side, pies of several varieties rather than my single apple tarte. Dishes hand-washed for what seemed like hours afterward by the family's females who chatted and gossiped and laughed together. I did a version of that meal for many years while raising our four, sometimes inviting others to join us, sometimes just savouring our own table of six, then 7, 8, 9, 10, as the kids added their partners, 11 when Nola entered the world. Every time we raised our glasses in gratitude around such a meal, I felt a profound satisfaction for being and doing what I was raised to do. The tradition was sustaining me, and I was doing my part, in turn, to sustain it for another generation. Every year, the experience affirmed the richness of a full family life.
We could have got much closer to that experience this weekend if I weren't still working.
That sentence, or some variety of it, often floats into my consciousness. Or interrupts more rudely than "floats" implies. Sometimes it drifts gently at the edge of my vision; sometimes it explodes insistently to apparently solve a logistical challenge. This career that I began preparing for in my 40s, took up full-time in my 50s, and will grumble about while being absorbed by in my 60s -- there's no question that it keeps me from being the wife, mother, grandmother, and friend that part of me still believes I should be . . . and wishes I could be.
The sentence troubles, insists, convinces me of its truth, even though my husband has cooked most of the Thanksgiving meal for several years now. I've even entrusted him with my dad's stuffing recipe, although he'd be the first to concede that he doesn't quite get the results I do. His gravy was perfection on Saturday. And he complains not a word that I marked papers for several hours while he shopped and then chopped. Instead, he raves about the pie I made as if it were the most significant contribution to the day's feast. It's only "that woman"'s voice that wonders if I shouldn't have been the one to peel and slice and measure and stir . . . and to put everything on the table while beaming at everyone gathered around. Either as a super-woman who does that in between the marking OR as a woman who puts family first and lets go of the satisfactions of a separate career.
I'm being Grateful today. I truly am. But in the interest of honesty, I have to layer my little voice into the equation. Luckily, "She" doesn't speak up too often nor too audibly. We had a lovely meal with my son, his new wife, and her brother. We wouldn't have had the same closeness with them if everyone had been here. And we know that our other 3 gathered their families together happily in Vancouver. (And the family of the new daughter I'm so grateful to have met this summer is surely enjoying their own Thanksgiving traditional meal this weekend as well) If I weren't still working, I would surely have brought them to a huge table where all would be one joyous unity. Since I am, they're all coping quite well and developing their own independent traditions -- including us, or not, as the occasion allows.
And I? Am grateful there are copious turkey leftovers in the fridge. Not so grateful that I am heading back to the marking pile. But grateful that there are no classes today, so that a Nap (yes, with a capital "N"!) is a distinct possibility today.
Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Canadians! And the rest of you are welcome to celebrate some gratitude as well. . . .even if, like me, you can't resist troubling it just a little . . .