Thanksgiving in my childhood years was. Stressful. Not because of the cooking and the cleaning and the avalanche of family members – the weird uncle and obnoxious cousins, pinched cheeks and ugly sweaters. Sigh. I only dreamed of those things!
Stressful because we usually spent the day at the house of an older couple my parents knew who didn’t have any children. They were warm and put out quite a spread, but it was a nerve-wracking day in their pristine house with formal furniture and lots of polite conversation without a comfy corner to recline in or let down your guard for one minute to be a kid. After dinner options were either hanging out with a group of older ladies gossiping about menial things or in the living room with the men passed out in front of the football game. FUN.
In my older teen years, Thanksgiving…WASN’T. Those were the years when my parents’ marriage was a war zone. My mom had by then adopted the habit of not speaking to me for months at a time, when hitting me was no longer an option (since I was big enough to at least stop her and/or intimidate her, though I never retaliated back) to take out her frustration and all consuming rage. My father retreated further into his passive shell and only poked out to go to work and back.
One particularly memorable Thanksgiving, my dad was away all day “at work” (a part-time job he had at a hobby shop that enabled him to be away from home every day after his regular job.) The house was silent (since this fell in a period of time when I an “untouchable.”) Suddenly my Mom and sister drove away in the late afternoon, just as the sun was going down on this miserable Thanksgiving day.
A few hours later, some high school friends called me to ask if I wanted to go out. Relief and joy washed over me as I got ready. And when I answered the doorbell, my friends were standing there with paper plates loaded with food from their Thanksgiving dinners!
I cried as I gobbled up the food in the car, so thankful for friends who gave me this incredible gift. To know that I wasn’t alone. That someone saw my pain and stepped in to extend love and warmth and to share from their plenty. This was the worst but also one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.