Embracing something new this year for Thanksgiving. Guilt free, stress free time with my husband.
When we were first married, the holidays were very stressful. Then the kids came and matters became much worse. Fibromyalgia undermined the holidays, especially Thanksgiving in those years when the kids were small and we did not know what caused my intense bouts of pain and fatigue. We did, however, know that participating in a game of holiday grandparent tug-of-war made me ill.
Eventually, the holidays became a time where my small family chose to stay home. Our door was always open, to family and friends alike. I would bake and cook and fill the table until it groaned. A few times friends joined us at that table, but most often it was just our small family of four.
After a very tough year of loss and a year when diagnosis finally explained my ill health, I asked my son to take over the Thanksgiving preparations. He was still a youth of twelve but he loved the challenge. From then on, Thanksgiving was his day.
Thanksgiving in my youth was all about the extended family and the food. Thanksgiving as a young wife and young mother was stressful. I tried my hardest counter the negativity of extended family contention. I learned that in a big family, the craziness is just part of the holiday tradition, but in a very small family, the craziness is unhealthy.
Year by year all our family shrank in size as age and illness took their toll. But with loss came the realization that the contention was gone as well.
We knew it would be awhile before our family would grow again. Knowing that the future would bring new members to our family caused us to ponder how to make the holidays different for the next generation.
These last few years found us carving out blissful memories as we carved the turkey. The holiday season became one of giving, of seeking others for whom we could share our bounty. Our table groaned less under the weight of food, but rather, gifts of food found their way to other tables.
Each holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving, my children would focus on the gifts they could share with others outside our home. My son embraced the task of giving bread and jelly. My daughter crafted gifts of yarn and fabric. Baking and needlework filled our time and filled our hearts as our simple gifts brought smiles to others. The holidays were still stressful and fatigue was still a problem for me, but now the stress revolved around helping my children learn the value of giving thanks by giving of themselves.
My kids are not in the position to come home this year. They are both embracing their chosen paths, and I am immensely grateful for the maturity in which they traverse this stage of life. I am also grateful that during the years of teaching them to give of themselves, I have learned to share them with others.
As I reflect on the holidays of the past, I embrace the notion that for a time, maybe just a short time, my husband and I can enjoy Thanksgiving Day as a couple, not so young, but without any guilt or pressure. What to some might seem sad, the two of us alone on Thanksgiving Day, is the very thing for which I am most grateful this year.
I am filled with joy knowing that this year the gift I have given to others is my children and that my children can enjoy this time unfettered by guilt, sorrow, jealousy, and contention, at least not from me.
I am also filled with peace on this Thanksgiving Day; a peace emanating from the presence of good company, a bountiful pantry, and love.
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