Thursday, November 26, 2009

EVEN THE LIZARD IS GRATEFUL

A friend of mine posted on Facebook, "What is everyone doing for Thanksgiving?" My response didn't take much thought: "Holding my breath till it's over."


Sometimes I think that holidays are a celebration of my lizard heart. I'm just not one of those hold-hands-around-the-table types. Years ago, when my husband and I were first married, we spent Thanksgiving with his family, which meant, since my brother was living in another part of the country, that my mother and father 'kept Thanksgiving in their own way,' to paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge. A day or two later, I called my mother to ask how the holiday went. By way of answer, she quoted a hymn. It was originally written as a comfort to those unfortunately separated from their loved ones. "Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away..." My mother kept the wording, but her interpretation was genius. The way she recited the line was more like this (I could hear her expansive smile) : "Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones FAR AWAY!!! WOO HOO!!"

You might say I was raised to appreciate solitude, a quality which is present in inverse proportion to high-carbohydrate food on holidays. But my parents aren't responsible for the fact that I work at home in a small house, that my desk is in a central location (so convenient! It used to be the dining room) and that my husband also works at home, rarely goes anywhere, and has no concept of why anyone would want to be alone. Ever. He's a great guy. It's just...we look at solitude philosophically. To him it's empty. To me, it's full. I'm happy that my college student kid will be here in a few hours...but there are a few things we need to talk about, and I'm a little anxious about whether I'll handle it right. Then put the older one together with my young teenager, and you have...nonstop hilarity. Man, they have a good time. Hang on to the breakables. Until mid-day Sunday, the median age around here will be about 7.

Then there's the Day Of. Since Turkey is not in my job description (thanks, Mum, and I'm not being sarcastic) I'm looking forward to making that cranberry stuff in a pretty dish and that long car ride with two overgrown 7-year-olds. The thing is, Extended Family isn't always the easiest planet to visit. I've rarely managed to navigate my way around my particular one without making a weirdo of myself. My skin gets too tight. My idiosyncracies start flaking unmentionably into the decorously prepared (and healthy!!) T & stuffing. I notice my when my children are bored or uncomfortable, and I want to squirm with them. I am the recipient of many polite, tolerant smiles, and all I want to do by pie time is find a fellow lost soul to crawl under the table with and giggle our guts out.

It's all gonna start hitting in about three hours. If I had my druthers, I'd spend the weekend with my husband and kids and a few solitude breaks. No big shebang....So what do I do about my lizard heart? Aargh, it looks like I have a choice to make. Either I take a thirsty look at gratitude or...well, or what? The problem with being a sarcastic type who detests greeting cards and prefers her holiday movies to skewer what they celebrate is that I might miss something important. Remember how glad I was yesterday that my husband's checkup turned out...fine? Remember, I'm telling myself, a few weeks ago when I was so worried about that college kid; and then, the thing I was afraid of DIDN'T actually happen? Remember last Thanksgiving, when I decided to visit Planet Extended and had an unusually honest and refreshing conversation with someone I'd previously written off? Remember how good it felt, for once, to ignore my lizard nature for a few hours?

Remember, I'm thinking, that I chose to put my desk in its commuter-station-like central location...And remember what I do there. What I'm PRIVILEGED to do here, when I could be sharpening pencils at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, or out of work entirely, which, despite the fact that this recession hit us hard, is not the case. Think of what I do that lots of people would like to do, and can't.

Why, I can take all the above AND, with a little luck, a lot of love, and a realistic infusion of gratitude...I can TURN IT INTO FICTION!!!!

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