The holidays are looming large and I can’t say that I am very excited about them at all. My relationship with the holidays has always been complicated. Our mom tried her hardest to make them warm and fun, but even as young children we could see the sadness in her eyes and feel the heaviness in the air. She missed her own mother terribly. She missed her dad. She lamented the brokenness of the holidays she’d spent with her own family as a little girl. She was saddened and exhausted by having to work all the time just to barely make ends meet, and felt inadequate in what she was able to provide for us as gifts.
We also often spent at least part of Christmas break with our dad, which meant mom being without us for the holidays. As a child I couldn’t fully grasp why that was so difficult for her, but as an adult I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to relinquish your kids at a time that is already so inherently trying.
Today’s Thanksgiving “celebration” was completely flat for my sisters and me. We vowed that we would spend the day together, and we dragged our sad, depressed, numb selves to Yay’s house to uphold that vow. Our conversation was forced and our laughter was pulled down on all four corners by lead weights. We wanted to be together. We wanted to spend time with each other, as we three girls are just about the only family we have left. Sure, we have our dad and our stepmom, our step-siblings, a few cousins and aunts and uncles. But as far as real family goes, the kind of family who knows and truly cares about your everyday existence… we’re all we’ve got.
So we gathered at Yay’s house and her girlfriend cooked a tasty meal for us. Guess the big gay cat is out of the big gay bag. Sadly, despite the girlfriend situation, and all the food, and the enthusiastic attempt to be as normal as grieving people can be, we did not have a gay old time. Even my youngest nephew Colin – normally a loud and energetic and loud child – was subdued, quiet, and even somewhat flat.
There were even multiple dogs present, which meant there could have been an epic dog party. But there was no dog party, just an unaffected mutual sniff followed by a disinterested nap and a feeble attempt to snag some food scraps. Including the four year old, and the dogs, we were all just… there. And we stayed there until we went home. At one point I got dizzy and tired and took a nap.
It was strange more than anything else. What we all really wanted was to be alone, hiding somewhere under the covers, ignoring the reality that it was the first of many Thanksgivings we have ahead of us without our mom, avoiding the depressive truth that Christmas is right around the corner. But we rallied. And we ate food that was in no way reminiscent of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
There was no fanfare, no large production of cutting into the flesh of a dead bird, no joyous sharing of what we were all thankful for on this magical day that is supposed to elicit an otherwise mostly absent sense of gratitude for the splendor of life.
Not that we aren’t thankful. All of us are thankful. We are thankful that none of us has totally lost our shit yet. We are thankful that we have each other to talk to and reach out to when we just CANNOT. And we all have plenty of days where we CANNOT. We just CAN’T. We are thankful for roofs over our heads, and the squeeeeeezy hugs of the little boys who called our mother Nana, and that we got to sing and pray our Mama out of this life, and that we can sit in the kitchen of the house where she died and make fun of her little behaviors the way we would have if she had been with us. We are thankful that, despite some pretty powerful odds, we’re all doing okay.
When I got home, the dog and I laid in silence on the couch. I stared at the ceiling, wishing that I was not facing three long days off work. The prospect of seventy-two or more hours off work is almost unbearable. When Christmas comes, there will be more time off and more flat hours spent with my sisters and more corpulent silence to sit on my chest and make me want to nap interminably. I think ultimately what I will be most thankful for is January.