Thank You Nuclear Families, Tummy Tucks, and a Thanksgiving without newspaper smudges.

It’s fascinating how our Thanks You’s transform over time.

In childhood I was mostly thankful for having more than my brother to play with as we gathered at Granny Erwin’s house.  Back in those days–the days of large family gatherings–we’d bring picnic tables into the living room so that we could all partake in the merriment of family.  The protruding bellies of my uncles, gossiping-voices of my aunts, and little cousin tattle-telling threats; this was Thanksgiving as I knew it.  Once Aunt Debbie–our beautician–cleaned her scissors and shears from the last haircut of the day, Thanksgiving had come to its end.  I was thankful for the following:  Dear Santa Letters we read from the local newspaper in hopes of seeing ours published, the end of Uncle Thed and Puff’s tickling torture, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, The Macy’s Day Parade, Aunt Glenda’s delightful full-bellied laugh, an Aunt LuLu and Uncle Darry Lee sighting, being in a family that danced, Crystal telling me about boys, Joe and Red shooting slingshots and my finding the best rock to shoot at the barn versus listening to Crystal’s boy-crazed stories, Bubba and Donnie sneaking into the tool shed, and my nuclear family.

High school was tricky as family units began to separate and splinter off into several small siloed Thanksgiving gatherings.  There wasn’t a headquarters any more, but rather several remote ones in which transformed the holiday into a chore.  There were new faces without the history or tradition in which defined family to me.  Bubba and I spent time with new families, outsiders looking in from the window, missing what Thanksgiving used to be.  Maybe we would get to see the characters of our family if our visit corresponded with their schedule, otherwise we would try to see them on Christmas.  I was thankful for the following: no more bickering, having a buddy like my brother to experience days like these with, our new baby brother Blake, my birthday so I could choose my own guest list, and the silence and alienation that allowed me to cherish memories and learn how to be alone.

College, I went where I wanted and I always went back home.  I was searching for myself, but mostly I was hoping to find the characters of my family again.  People had moved on; cousins married, loved ones died, slingshots were passé, picnic tables remained outside, gossiping sounded more faint, we were less enthused with newspapers and Santa, everyone was doing Weight Watchers, and Aunt Debbie forgot her scissors and sheers.  I was thankful for the following: being home, newspaper smudges on my fingers, eating despite being broke, playing with my cousin’s children, being too old for tickle torture, that CD that turned into family dancing, divorce allowing happiness, for not having to eat smaller portions, not having to tell Aunt Debbie I needed a more complex type of haircut, not being married, and the remembrance of those we lost along the way.

Today, I have to decide between Thanksgiving or Christmas, the latter always wins going home.  My family has extended into its own social network and text messaging allows me to tell all these characters how thankful I am they are in my life or have passed through it.  Newspapers are electronic as to prevent smudging, gossiping is viral, tummy tucks replaced dieting, Aunt Debbie is retired so no haircuts rendered, my cousins have divorced and remarried, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton have had so much plastic surgery their faces don’t move, I’m not sure slingshots are even sold any more but Crystal is still boy crazy, new faces are no longer intimidating, and I’m okay with Thanksgiving this way.  I’ll dance on Christmas, but the Macy’s Day Parade is on in all our homes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorrow celebrates joy…

We celebrate lots of things in a year if you think about it, and I hope you do, celebrate.  Celebrations change, or at least they have for me.  Christmas, the very essence of opening a present and getting the tingles from deep inside the gut as you rip and tear through it, changes with age.  The crock pot isn’t as exciting as say an easy-bake oven, now is it?  Birthdays, every year counting down to another year older and another year closer to getting on with it – whatever ‘it’ was then, become just another day.  Thirty two isn’t as exciting as say sixteen, now is it?  No excitement of driving legally for the first time and potentially…wait for it…a new car.  Nope, but you still have to pay the bank for the loan on your birthday and the Happy Birthday balloons aren’t even allowed at work.

The older you get, and trust me I’m not claiming thirty two is ‘old’ per se, the more dates you add to the calendar; anniversaries, in-laws birthdays, new birthdays, and death days.  The longer your life becomes the more boxes on that calendar that you, in some form, celebrate.

Death days are unusual days because they don’t, necessarily, have to be marked in a box on a calendar to depress everyone.  No, death days you never forget and the internal clock (the same one that powers the biological clock you hear about or may feel or felt but with less pressure…more like an iCalendar inside your soul) reminds you the closer one gets.  Historically, around Thanksgiving is when a down cycle starts for me and eases back up around February.  I know what you’re thinking and no it’s not seasonal depression.  It’s a hole looking to be filled, but the person to fill it has passed on so it’s an emptiness in my soul around holidays – loss.  The holidays begin the stretch into the moment in time, January 29th, that his life ended.  The constellation of death holidays all at once is the reason for the down cycle.  The death of Thanksgiving with my brother, the death of shopping for him at Christmas, and as a New Year approaches…ultimately the death of him.  In more ways than one every year, like grief, it gets less so a death occurs…the longevity of death pushing me further away from the actual moment.  Maybe this is why death vacillates in my writing and speech in the fourth quarter of the year.

I think back to the precious moments (no not the collectible figurines) when life resonates causing me to smile, deeply, and the urge to dance strikes.  That moment when the full moon takes your breath away, or when you can feel the sun hit your nose and radiate your soul.  Moments when you skip across the street, music hits your nervous system causing your head to move to the beat, a bright idea that shines down from the heavens right through you to the paper, those innocent moments.  Laughing until you cry, remember that?  Somewhere in the space between death and day I found a reason to celebrate, and that reason is life.

My brother couldn’t stop smiling, it’s true.  The very fiber of his being was happiness, and his life was a delight.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
(Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet)

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