On Recognizing the Bounty and Being Glad

Nov 23 2011

Thanksgiving dawns bright and early tomorrow – or dark and early if you’re setting your alarm to get that turkey in the oven – and I am ill-prepared for the feast.

Before five kids, I was a different person. I had lists. I had lists of lists. I had lists of lists of lists.

I baked for days. I coordinated the populace. I communicated with alacrity. I was the Thanksgiving (or birthday or Christmas or Easter) drill sergeant, spurring all others on to detailed organization. I knew exactly who was bringing rolls, who was buying the bag of salad, and which grandmother was making sugar cookies.

I knew the exact number of jam jars in my pantry, and I took out stock in fresh whipping cream. I had the ham thawing days in advance; the back-up ham, that is, in case I decided at the last minute that the turkey size was insufficient.

In short, I never, ever wondered, like I do this year, whether we’d have too many sweet potatoes and not enough… well, everything else.

This year is different.

This year, my niece has cancer and my nephew keeps forgetting that breathing is really, really important even though Mr. Epi-pen takes a personal interest in reminding him.

This year, I don’t care about my lists or about the illusion of preparedness. I care, instead, about discovery.

This year, I’m immersed in being a mama to my children…,

… and to soaking up every blissful second they’ll offer me.

This year, I’m without the emotional or spiritual reserves to do more than be grateful.

I find it all strangely freeing, as though the chains of expectation have fallen away.

Tomorrow, a hodgepodge group of friends and family will arrive at my house. My friend Webb will bring his famous brined and smoked turkey. My sister-in-law is making no less than 7 nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free desserts, all of which sound delectable, many of which include the all-important word chocolate, and none of which will cause my nephew to do his lack-of-breathing impression. (Yippee!) And, of course, due to my industrious lack of communication, at least 3 people are bringing sweet potatoes.

I haven’t pressed the napkins – or, really, even unearthed them from the dog-mauled plastic laundry basket where they’ve been since the last holiday I hosted. I don’t know whether I have enough tea-light candles for our long table. I don’t know whether we have enough chairs for the crowd. My sourcing of plates, in fact, leaves something to be desired.

But, if I fix none of those problems today, I know exactly what will happen tomorrow. My friends and family will arrive, and we’ll do the work of the day together. Our kids will tear apart the house while we rearrange the furniture, boil the (piles and piles of) sweet potatoes, and press the napkins. We’ll laugh, glasses of wine in hand, and, if the weather clears, we’ll go for a walk, even if our languid pace as we chase toddlers delays our meal.

It’s enough for me today, in the busyness and the bluster that is Thanksgiving Eve, to simply be grateful,

because this season of life is teaching me not to wait for tomorrow to recognize the bounty and be glad.

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends!

And, to the rest of you, I wish you a very, very Happy Thursday.