(written prior to Thanksgiving, 2014)
How it happened, I'm not 100% certain, but before I answered a phone call from the mother of my future daughter-in-love, my husband and I had no plans for Thanksgiving. By the time I hung up, he and I were committed to having Thanksgiving at her house, low key on the details, cooking a turkey breast I already had in the freezer.
Jan didn't think a meal at Cracker Barrel on Thanksgiving Day was suitable, not when we, she and her husband and I and mine, could get together. Her house was already deep cleaned and ready for an upcoming baby shower. The four of us, prior to that call, were Thanksgiving orphans.
But please, no pity. We're dealing with it--sometimes strongly and often inwardly. Three of us in our 50s and one crossed the threshold already to 60, our "children" are, in fact, no longer children, but young professional men and woman who've finished college and launched careers in nursing, stock brokering, management, and accounting. That in itself is an immense gift to be thankful for, all gainfully employed in a wobbly-legged economy. Still, those careers took our children, their spouses, and a fianceé to regions where their feet will not be under their parents' Thanksgiving tables.
It's not new for me, actually. Some years ago, my young men pulled a holiday disappearance the same year at Thanksgiving. We had to know the beautiful young women they were dating would want us to share them. Baptism by fire, it was though, and outside that evening by a fire is exactly how their father and I spent it. How is it we think we can't manage without people we didn't even know when we first fell in love? Back then, some 32 years ago, "we" were enough.
My husband and I are still re-learning "we." The teacher in Jan made an executive decision we'd all learn together this year. Her lesson plan was not disclosed to me, and maybe it was a spur of the moment field trip. However it happened, here we go.
Prior to the call where I learned more specifically what my Thanksgiving plans were, I was e-mailing back and forth with a niece by marriage who opted not to have children. I shared with her: "It occurred to me while I was showering that I never had a phase of sharing holidays with adults only. I've shared holidays with my adult children, but you know what I mean. We had (my first child) 10 days after our first wedding anniversary, so it was always about them. As silly as it sounds, it's a new learning curve still for me."
The conversation sprung from planning Christmas without either of my adult children "home" to celebrate with us. My heart is lagging a little behind what my mind knows. Home to my adult children is Denver, Colorado while I'm in the southernmost part of Georgia. I've been spoiled to have them at my home each Christmas for their entire lives. Now I have to concede their present state of being, adults with lives of their own, to the Christmas holidays.
I'm not looking forward to them not being here. I know they'll miss us, too, they've said as much, but they've fallen head over heels in love with Denver and snow and a city and...they have completely, responsibly embraced adulthood.
My childless by choice niece described an adults only holiday to me. "There's a peace and solitude that is soothing. No worries about how many presents or who got what...it's about sharing the holiday with that person and making the day special for them. There's a freedom in spending the day with your loved one and watching them make memories- I can't explain it, but it's nice."
Thanks to the wisdom of someone who has already learned to navigate holidays without children and a teacher's spontaneous invitation, I take another step into this territory called life, a phase of life I wasn't completely prepared for, but what a blessing: God in His kindness saw to it that my husband and I wouldn't have to go it alone.
We would have been fine, but we got to go, bearing food gifts, to someone else's house where the Christmas tree is already up, hug necks, share a nice dinner, and resemble a little on Thanksgiving Day those sappy Hallmark Christmas movies we've been watching.
I already had in mind part of what my niece said, making the holidays nice for my husband, not wanting to give in to the sadness that is and inevitably will be there as we are transitioning, read catching up to reality, to "us" again. I'm not completely maudlin about it and genuinely have Christmas spirit--I already bought the dog a present and a few items for adult children's stockings I'll be shipping across the country.
I'm shopping for a smaller Christmas tree. I'm looking forward to decorating less for Christmas. And for Thanksgiving, downsizing from an entire turkey to the breast, well, I didn't even have to cook that. A friend of my husband's had smoked turkeys and gave us one late Wednesday evening. Thanksgiving Lite was already easy enough and this gift was from the Lord was confirmation of it all, letting me know it's right and good to shed any and all guilt over not going all out for the holidays.
There's something in this for the parents, after all. My niece pointed it out to me. A bit more "freedom."
Before I tapped out my thoughts and feelings, I'd already cooked the cranberry sauce. I didn't have to thoroughly clean the house for guests. I could go into a room which once belonged to a child but evolved into a woman cave of sorts and ruminate awhile before I leisurely moved on to the next dish.
Herein is a reward for faithfulness in years past and I want to receive it gratefully, not overlook it for focusing on what has changed. Change is ceaseless in life. While I didn't ask for this specifically in a prayer, God gave me a desire of my heart: I don't want to be stuck where I am wishing to be where I was. Change is hard, but it is good. It shakes things up, keeps us from growing stagnant if we flow with it. God won't let me rest on the laurels of having finished raising my children. I still have a lot to learn!