I love holidays, but I tend to get all hermit-y when they loom on the horizon... I love the idea of family all together and a great meal and gifts and walks and all of that, which was a part of my childhood. I come from a large family. We are loud and funny and inclusive. Don't have anywhere to land? Come sit with us! You'll leave full and entertained.
So the urge to retreat to my shell always catches me by surprise. In this large, loud family, we have always respected each others' space and right to alone time because it is so precious and hard to come by. Even after all these years of not living in the house with parents and all those brothers, I crave some quietness when no one is demanding anything from me and I can be alone with my thoughts.
In past years, my grandmother "hosted" the big meal of the holiday, but once Mom started having all those kids and had the bigger house, she took on the duties of cooking and cleaning and being the base of operations for holiday merry-making. Grandma reduced her role to breakfast on Christmas Day and bringing the iced tea. After she died, it landed solidly in my mother's lap. She had the farm and places for people to sleep, the big kitchen and the desire to make every holiday delicious and lovely. She did a marvelous job.
Little by little though, I found myself in the hostess chair. My in-laws are quite old and frail now. They live in a small condo and do not do dinners or holidays at home. My brother-in-law Joe and his wife have been marvelous in taking up the in-law slack, but last year it was MY turn. The whole in-law family came to my house for Thanksgiving. It was full and crazy and more than a little stressful. Sisters-in-law tried to help, but it truly was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. My kitchen isn't that big. Neither is my house, for that matter. Somehow it came off without a hitch and everyone left feeling full and happy. Phew!
Fast forward to this year. My brother was home from Kuwait, his children were coming home for the holiday and he invited my parents and Jerry to come up for dinner with him and his family in Atlanta. Jerry demurred - the towing business is slow and he needs to work as much as he could, but the parents were making plans to go. I was a bit relieved. The in-laws were going to St. George. The parents were going to Atlanta. I could wave away all other family and just have a quiet little day with just my husband and my son, a small bird and nice family time that we don't seem to get much of these days.
You know that saying about making plans? God laughs when we make plans. He really knows how to shake things up. Both my parents were seriously ill in November (if you read regularly, you know all about it). The trip to Atlanta was out. Mom is still in rehab, which left Dad at loose ends and Jerry dangling and of course once it was decided to have Thanksgiving dinner after all, the stepson and his family had to be included too. So much for my quiet day.
A bird was bought. Potatoes peeled. Ingredients for green bean casserole set out. It was like a well orchestrated dance - everything happened exactly as I'd hoped. The bird did well in the Nu-Wave oven (that will warrant another post all by itself), the casserole got done, I made up a recipe for the sweet potatoes that worked, the mashed potatoes were divine. Darling Man got up at 4:30am and made two of the best pumpkin pies I think I've ever eaten.
The house was tidy enough (no one upstairs, please!!!) and we sat down to dinner and had a lovely time. The food was delicious, the company good. Those plans God laughed at? Blown to smithereens, but it reminded me of the reason for this holiday - and how much I have to be thankful for.
Dad and I left clean up to the rest as we put together a plate for Mom and took it to her at the Rehabilitation Hospital. A little bit of everything but the mashed potatoes (Thanksgiving is a carb-heavy meal - not easy on the diabetic system). She finished a couple of bites of pie, leaned back in her bed and gave a contented sigh. We'd been talking about the day and how it went, when Mom looked at Dad and said, "I believe the baton has been passed. She's the hostess now." We talked about how that happens, sometimes gradually, sometimes quickly, sometimes by default. What surprised me was how effortlessly I accomplished it. I think it was Mom's sign that it was time to pass it on, as holiday meals had become a bit of a chore to her.
So now, it's mine. Scary. But you know, I think the gathering spot will still be the farm - at least when there will be a lot of us. I just don't have the room. I'll be the one directing the show, though. And the weird part is (for the hermit-y holiday girl) that I'm kind of looking forward to it.