I asked him, "Hey Ian! It's Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?" (Yes, I was shouting, because I am at my computer on one side of the room, and he's at the other end, playing something called, "War Machines", which I should probably tell him to not play, but at the time, he's happy, quiet, and he's not shouting, "Die punk!" So we're good, right? Right! So, yes, I shouted across the room.
He walks over to me, reciting, "I'm thankful for all of my friends and all of my family... and that means you, too!" It sounded a little rehearsed, like they'd been discussing it in school this week. And I'm okay with that. If the schools are teaching my kids to be grateful they have friends and family, dude, I'm all over that. Yay for school!
I can't ask Josie yet, because it's 8:55 am, and she's still upstairs asleep. (Which leads me right into what *I* am thankful for at the moment!) But I'm pretty sure she'd say, "princesses... and kittens.... and princesses... and pink princesses...." because that is her answer to almost any question you could ask her. "Hey Jos, what did you dream about last night?" "Hey, Jos, what do you want for Christmas?" "Hey, Jos, what are you going to be when you grow up?" Yep, still in that stage.
And I can't ask Scott, because he isn't here at the moment. He is on his way to see his mother. He's stopping at the grocery store for her, and then he's going to see his father, who is in the hospital recovering from some nasty bit of this or that. They live about an hour and a half away from here, so he'll probably be gone most of the day, and that's okay with me. I love that his family is important to him. It's at the top of my "what am I thankful for" list.
Family is such a weird thing. I mean, really. We love them. We hate them. We want to be just like them when we grow up, and we want to be NOTHING like them when we grow up. They drive us absolutely bonkers. Some of them are people we would NEVER choose to be in the same room with if there weren't some sort of pie and a turkey involved. And yet, when we're together, it's all good. It's warm and fuzzy. Because it's family!
The Thanksgiving mornings I remember: It was cold and gray outside, but the house is warm and toasty (and bathed in a soft golden light, although that could be residual memory of the 70's gold rug we had). It smells like sage and turkey (we ate "dinner" at 1pm so mom started cooking EARLY). The Macy's parade was on tv, and sometimes we watched, sometimes it was just on. We would stay in our pajamas until noon, because we could. I honestly don't know what my brother would do, but I would read, or work on my dollhouse (I was constantly remodeling) or watch tv all day. Sometimes we had family living with us, sometimes we didn't. But either way. It was good. Memories are like that. No matter what they were really like, we tend to only remember the best parts.
I really should be cooking the turkey now. It's in the fridge. I think I was supposed to brine it. I forgot. Well, I didn't actually forget, I would just remember at inopportune times. (Like now.) I'm not in a rush. We've got all day.
Josie is awake now. She and Ian have discovered the parade. They're eating popcorn and sharing a leftover McFlurry (don't judge me) and are actually watching it. "Pikachu, Ian! And Spiderman!" They love it! Excellent. Life is good. I'm happy.
Scott should be at his mom's by now. She's been alone in the house (well, if you can ever truly be "alone" when you have four cats) for about a week now. She loves that house. We love the house. It's full of history, both personal and national. I know that one day my kids will grow up and Scott will be away and I'll be alone in my house. There are days when that happens now, but at night, the kids are back and there are the usual noises. It's eerily quiet when they are having sleepovers elsewhere. The house feels so big then. I wonder if the house feels too big to his mother when his father is away? I wonder if she ever gets creeped out by going to the basement to do the laundry? (I know I would, but I always get creeped out by old basements. It's just one of my things.) Or is she like me, where she waits until the day he's coming home and then cleans the house in a flurry? I don't imagine her being that way. With Scott's mom, things get done. She's good that way. So is my mom. They do what needs to be done, and don't waste any time. (wistfully writes the procrastinator.)
"It's the battery rabbit, Josie!!"
"Rabbits don't have glasses.... hahahahahahahahah!"
Here is a little parable about cell-phones. Be careful, because someday, your pants might call your mother. And it will happen at, oh, inopportune times. Like, say, when you're discussing them. (Ack!) You won't know about it right away. You'll be talking about something else - like how crazy it is that we still can't seem to wrap ourselves around dollar coins, and would it really kill our country to finally go metric? And then you'll be talking about this house you're going to buy. And how excited your parents are for you. You'll talk about how they are all getting older, and who will come to live with you first. You'll talk about how when you are remodeling the house you just bought, it's important to have a bedroom on the main floor, because even if nobody comes to live with you, someday YOU will be older, and less mobile, and will need fewer stairs. And somewhere in there, you'll work in a conversation about something totally unrelated on where you want to travel next, Rome, or Africa (who would have guessed Seattle would have won?), and how England would be cool because we could see Hadrian's Wall, which would be so much easier to hike than the wall in China. And all the while, your mom is listening.
"Look at that big yellow bird, Ian! And Elmo!"
A few days later, you're talking to your mom, and she says, "Oh my god, you two have the most boring conversations. I almost fell asleep listening to you." Um, what? Oh no, what did we talk about? Her! Them! I ask if we said anything I should be apologizing for, and thank goodness she said no. And she was glad to hear that we weren't going to kick her to the curb when she got old. Haha. I'll even make sure your socks match, I tell her, If you play your cards right.
It was never a question to me IF she'd come live with us someday. It's always been a matter of when. We always had family living with us when I was growing up. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. I loved it when they were there. It was like having a big sister or brother. One who let you borrow their clothes and their 8-track tapes, and read their comic books, but who never teased you. And I loved having my grandparents there. I just loved it.
I miss them, my grandparents. I think about them a lot on days like today. In a little while, everyone would start showing up. Nanny should be sitting at the kitchen table while mom and my aunts fuss around the stove and talk about who did what, and can you pass that? Papa and Daddy and the uncles in the living room, watching football and telling the kids to settle down, can't you see we're watching the game? My cousins were much younger than me (oddly not so much younger now that we're all over 30), so they would be playing with my brother, and I would be off doing my own thing. I used to threaten my mother with the possibility that I'd be volunteering at a homeless shelter the next year, and she'd say, Oh no, you won't. You'll be right here where you belong. And we'd argue over why I could or couldn't do that or something else. Because by then I was 15 or 19 or 23 and I was old enough to make my own decisions. I was going to travel the world, I was going to save the world, I was going to do Big Things. And I could volunteer at a shelter on Thanksgiving if I wanted to! Except I never did. Because my mom wanted me to be home.
"I want to play my Wii games!!!"
"No, sweetie, the parade is still on. It's what we do on Thanksgiving."
And eventually we'd all come together. There was never enough room at the table for everyone to sit there, so Nanny would sit there, and one or two others, and the rest of the family would be spread out around the living room, finding a seat where ever they could. We'd take a plate over to Papa, who was in his Chair. The table would be covered with food - so much food. Turkey, of course, and mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes and raisins under a blanket of marshmallows. Stuffing in the bird and stuffing from the oven. Corn, and green beans and lima beans. Cornbread and biscuits and gravy. Pumpkin and pecan (that's PEEcan, not peCAHN) pies. We would have these huge, heavy plates balanced on our knees, and a glass of sweet tea, because there was always sweet tea, and we would eat and exclaim how good it was, and could you pass the butter, and oh, did you try the pie?
We didn't pause to say grace, because the gratitude was implied. We knew how much we had. We knew how lucky we were to have it. Eventually the noise of the meal would quiet, and we would settle down and get to the business of eating, until we put down our plates and leaned back, full and happy and drowsy.
My uncle would pick up a guitar then, and start playing. Always the same songs...Fly Away (it was Nanny's favorite), The Sweetest Gift (who can resist a song about prison on Thanksgiving?), The Boxer. A lot of Johnny Cash. We would sing along to the ones we knew. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realized that almost all the songs Davy played were hymns. To me, they were just 'family music'. Davy spent some time living on the mountain, as they called it. My grandparents had a small farm in NC, and he lived there by himself one summer, teaching himself to play guitar, and no doubt acquainting himself with the cousins with the still. So it would stand to reason that he would be learning the music that was in the house - a hymnal and my grandmother's music books for the electric organ. And Johnny Cash, of course.
The Big Apple Circus is onscreen, Josie is standing as close to the tv as possible and lining her princesses up in front to watch. "Ian, look at that big elephant! He has a ear."
After we ate, and after we sang, and after we ate some more, and after we cleaned up, and after we called the relatives who couldn't be there to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and after we made our plans for Christmas and drew names for the Secret Santa Exchange (at which we failed miserably - annually) the children were gathered and coats were put on. Hugs and kisses and goodbyes and promises to see each other sooner next time.
We are always sincere - we do want to see each other soon. Because even when we drive each other crazy, even if we sometimes can't stand to be in the same room together, even then... we're family. We've got our own kind of crazy. Our people know all about our crazy, and they love us anyway. In spite of it. Because of it. Because it's family and it's what you do.
Andrea Bocelli is singing. Josie is crying now that she wants to play the Wii princess game and she has an ouchie on her foot because Ian hit her head. (I saw the whole thing - he refused to change the parade to the Wii... she's a little dramatic.) The tv people mention that Santa will be here soon - I forgot that Santa ended the parade! I run in, "Josie! Ian! Santa will be in the parade!" "But I want to play my Wii game!!!" "Look Josie! Kermit is in the parade! Kermit is real!" (That was from Ian, not me.)
Yep, we've got our own kind of crazy. It's the kind you visit and the kind that lives with you. It's the kind that fights and the kind that sings. It's the kind that comes together when it matters.
And it's what I'm thankful for.
Final parade update: Santa is on. He's lip-synching. They kids don't notice. "It's the real Santa! Not just the guy in the suit!" I love how excited they are about Santa. I can't believe we actually watched the whole parade. I don't know that I ever have before. Ian put on the princess Wii game, and they are playing together and not fighting. I'm off to the kitchen to make too much food, Scott will come home, we will eat and make phone calls and eventually someone has to walk the dog.
It's a good day.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.