All weekend we are in the same room, but we hardly exchange a word. It is the most romantic Thanksgiving holiday of my life.
David has the turkey smoking on the BBQ and I am cleaning the bathroom when I hear her boots clicking down the hallway. Our daughter, Kaitlin, arrives from Salt Lake City. I pop my head into the hallway and give her a long squeeze. “Come sit and talk to me while I finish.” We light a candle so it doesn’t smell like comet and vinegar.
Next our company arrives and suddenly clean kitchen counters are strewn with wine, bags of mushrooms and nuts to sample. “Have you tried these crackers?” generous offers are made.
There are too many people in my kitchen with opinions about how things should be stirred, or sliced. I feel bossed in my own kitchen and I love it. My husband wants to be mashing potatoes or chopping nuts. He hands me the thinner knife so I have an easier time slicing the onion.
Our home has been quiet this year. “Did you see this piece in the Times?” I call from my studio into the silence of our childless home. He is at his desk and responds between sips of morning coffee.
“Are you going to the store soon?” he might ask me if we happen to be brushing teeth together and he notices he is out of floss. Through each life transition my husband and I have changed.
We’ve had many eras together. When we were first married, we were spontaneous and went to late night movies on a whim. Then we had children who needed the routine of predictable bedtimes. Jobs meant we moved multiple times, so our children learned how to let go of predictability and embrace flexibility.
When we buried my parents I was the one who needed stability. I found it in a deck of cards I dealt out to my children daily. The cards lived inside a dresser that came to live in my home and I listened to my childhood drawer as it pulled out, metal on metal clinking. Years later, my husband and I took a deep breath and waved as our children walked out into lives of their own and took furniture (and dishes and blankets) from their childhoods with them.
This year we buried our family dog, and just last night, my husband mistook a shadow for her black fur, and grief was new again. We held each other.
“Mom, what do you do to rest?” my daughter asked me this weekend.
The question reminded me of my own mother and the days after one Thanksgiving when she would typically decorate for Christmas. “I’m done,” my mother said. “I’m not decorating this year.” But that’s your job! I thought at the time.
“Mom,” I offered, because my style was different than hers, “what if we decorate the mantle with fresh greens I clip from the tree outside?” She loved the idea. I thought it was the pine scent.
This year my husband helped to cook every meal Thanksgiving weekend as we had company. There was a time in our marriage that I left the kitchen because I was so hungry and tired of asking my husband to cook something.
Death informs life.
Thanksgiving ended this year and I actually told a friend “Next year I’ll take charge in my kitchen a little more. I think that would have relaxed everyone, mostly me.” Pendulums swing.
I’ve thought about my daughter’s question, what do I do to rest?
The threat of losing Christmas, as a teenager, awakened me to my own deep longings. Raising my own children, I’ll admit there was a year or three-ish that I had trouble making cookies, putting up a tree and decorations. I wished my mother had still been alive so I could have called her. She would have laughed.
Then she would smile and nod to hear about my husband cooking all weekend long. He made enchiladas when our son, Logan, finally made it home for five precious hours and I silently cleaned the kitchen beside my husband. Our children took up their childhood spots at the island where I dished up pancakes through the decades and where after school news about A or S and playground dramas were solved with cupcakes. This weekend the island heard stories about jobs and apartments.
The children are both enduring long hours and difficult deadlines. Growing up is hard.
But one day, dear daughter, your children will come home for Thanksgiving weekend and you will spend an evening laying out red and gold candles and hanging Christmas ornaments over the bookshelf. There will be times you will be hungry and tired and people were relying on you to feed them, but some day you will be the one sitting at the island again being served while stories fill your ears from a boy who once closed doors to ensure you were kept out.
It is because the pendulum is always swinging that rest feels elusive. We are always adjusting one way or another. At my house, the balance of the universe swung precisely right for a mystical 24 hours, but it feels like enough rest for a lifetime.
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