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A perfectly imperfect Thanksgiving

November 29, 2009

Not one, but two turkeys!

Thanksgiving has always been my family’s favorite holiday. For one thing, when you’re Jewish as we are, Thanksgiving kind of becomes our Christmas: the one and only holiday of the year when we celebrate exactly like every other American does, complete with special foods prepared only on that day (when else would it occur to me to make stuffing or bake a pumpkin pie?) and family members coming together just like everywhere else.

At the same time Thanksgiving, like Christmas for a great many people, can be the classic set-up for disappointment.  It may all look like a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover.  But turn on the sound, and you’ll usually hear the squabbles, the sibling who is sulking, the mother-in-law who is criticizing, the resentment on the part of the very few who always seem to end up with the clean-up while everyone else lounges around.  It’s no different in my family.

The whole gang

But every once in a while a miracle occurs and everything feels just about perfect, and that’s how my Thanksgiving felt this year.  For the first time in the great many years of my single-hood, I had a loving partner by my side – my good natured and eternally patient fiancé Bob, who not only put up with the cast of future in-laws, with all their idiosyncrasies, but also carved. Dinner for sixteen included my mother and step-father who drove up from Florida, my sister who flew in from Norway, and just about all of my neices and nephews, including one who flew in from Oregon and one down from Rochester.

What was the most special of all, of course, was that I had all three sons with me.  As any divorced parent who alternates holidays with the ex-spouse knows, the years when I do have my kids at my table are especially precious.  Again, I take note of one of the bittersweet gifts of  divorce – which is how much I appreciate having my children with me for the holiday.

What made my Thanksgiving perfect isn’t that everyone behaved perfectly. I’m sure my siblings and I managed to embarass our teenage children more than once.  I will admit to twinges of annoyance when my sister insisted that the stuffing and just about everything else be dairy and MSG-free.  As always, I was left practically alone in the kitchen to clean up. (Two teenage neices did help, leaving me to puzzle once again why it’s always the girls who end up in the kitchen.) And I did cover my eyes once or twice when my 80-year-old mother told some not terribly appropriate  – let’s say, spicy – jokes that her teenage grandchildren rolling off their chairs.

But how I appreciated every moment.  Even as the overcooked turkey started to shred, and the cranberry sauce burned, and I splattered gravy all over the counter, I was practically overcome with the miracle of it all: that never again would there be this day, when I had all these people together at my table – my sons who are quickly growing away from me and into their adult lives, my mother and step-father who are not in the best of health, my one-and-only sister who lives six time zones away, and the rest of this very imperfect but wonderful family of mine –  in this home and this new life that I created after the old one ended.

In one of my darkest times all those years ago, I remember picking up a coping-with-divorce book called The Best Is Yet To Come. I guess this is what it meant.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 4, 2009 10:24 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful Thanksgiving. I’m sure your whole family appreciates you bringing them together, and as you say, you never know when there will be a gathering like it again. Cherish the memories.

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