Married people like going home for the holidays: I had an unpredictable Thanksgiving, with lots of broken traditions and first-time-for-everything moments. Never before had my brother carved the turkey. And get this—I passed on the cranberry sauce, twice! The most traditional part about my holiday was the fact that I spent it in Ohio.
Going home for the holidays is not without its challenges. When you add divorce to the visitation equation, our quick trips become clusters of chaos masquerading as vacation days. Our time is limited in Y-town. And this causes a bit of friction within my ever-growing family circle. Now in our fifth year of braving the holiday-highways, we’ve come to realize that we can’t please everyone. Not even ourselves.
To be honest, going home for the holidays is usually worth the madness; even if it feels like I need a vacation after my vacation. Besides, doesn’t everyone feel that way? Every year, we struggle to meet-eat-and-greet with our loved ones. But deep down, we know it’s a blessing. The holidays are only hectic because we cherish our relationships. It’s like I told my brother Matthew, “No two Thanksgivings are the same.” To which he replied, “Unless you’re in prison.” (My point exactly.)
This year, I also experienced a new personal twist on the popular holiday norm “Tis the season to get engaged.” I found myself gazing at a shiny rock on my mother’s left hand. For the rest of the weekend, I would catch this sparkle out of the corner of my eye, like she was whispering I’m in love from across the room.
Here’s another (and less romantic) holiday highlight: I painted my mother’s basement. Now there’s a first for me. The job should have come with hazard pay. Everyone knows that the basement is an underground utopia for eight-legged creepy-crawlies. I carelessly dragged the brush along the cement while my eyes wandered for possible spider-sightings. Thus, my handiwork grew sloppier by the stroke. Say what you will about “the two shall become one” marriage clause but painting is not my forte. Yet John can make the wet bristles glide with the grace of a ballerina’s fingertips.
The next day was Thanksgiving. So I mapped out our schedule. First stop? Ma’s house. Seeing how this was a Thanksgiving of firsts, I made a conscience effort to chip in during cleanup. My endeavor to fake domestication meant helping my mother-in-law load the dishwasher—between courses. (Who does that?) She rinsed the salad bowls at the sink. Then I placed them one-by-one, and ever so gently, in the lower rack. Only to find out later, she rearranged them. What can I say? Like mother, like son.
Ma’s house was spic ‘n span within the hour. Then we ventured to our next Turkey Day destination: The Assumption Village, where Nanny is recovering beautifully. I am thankful that Ma has been able to shower Nanny with TLC while she is in stroke rehab. People say it’s good to have a doctor in the family, well, I’d much rather have a nurse. Visiting a loved one, in a nursing home, on Thanksgiving, also a first.
Our final stop was right back where the day began. I found my mother and grandmother doing their usual jig in the kitchen. (Some traditions never change.) I watched as they spun circles around one another in a tiny space, each armed with mixing bowls, pot holders and utensils. It was time for Round II of turkey. Only to find out that my mother omitted a certain traditional staple from this year’s meal—the gravy! Customarily, John drenches everything on his plate with the brown liquid. But I don’t understand this either. Doesn’t that make everything taste the same?
That night, John fell fast asleep with carbs in his tummy and shopportunistic dreams in his head. My husband took flack from my brothers for being a Black Friday fan. (If it’s not sports-related, then it doesn’t register with my siblings.) Me? I’d much rather be sleeping. He set his cell phone alarm for 4:30 am and left the house while it was still dark outside. After what felt like seconds, but was actually a few hours, he came barging back into the bedroom. Still snuggled beneath the blankets and fearing the worst, I envisioned him holding bags of Blu-Rays and dozens of DVDs. I opened my eyes only after he announced, “It snowed!”
Seeing the white stuff outside my window was a pleasant surprise but par for the Ohio course. I was, however, bewildered by my hubby’s doorbuster deals: new slippers, a Yankee candle, and a bed skirt. The man is unpredictable. Just like Thanksgiving.