My Deconstructed Thanksgiving

There’s been nothing like 2020 to make me really appreciate the things I have, or still have. It was always my intention to give thanks for the people and things in my life that are good, but I wasn’t always entirely sure how that would look.

My family at large decided weeks ago that we would celebrate separately. While it was a painful decision, it actually made the holiday more pleasant not less. I didn’t feel like I was losing something so much as actively making a different choice.

We had our turkey and cranberry sauce. On November 11th. I purposely bought an early turkey and just baked it one Wednesday. It was amazing. The potatoes were soup, basically, but all else was a delicious meal. And then I made broth with the bones.

Work has been busy of late. Busier indeed than it has been for me to this point. My husband and I have been limping for a little while. We said we were limping into last weekend. Then we were limping to the holiday. Then the oddest thing happened.

I made a list. Well, no, that’s not the oddest thing. It’s not odd in the least. The oddest thing is waking up Thursday morning, having forgotten to prepare the annual bubble bread Wednesday night, and working on anything that wasn’t from my workplace. I transferred photos to our NAS, I updated Google Classroom for Book Camp 2021, I downloaded bank statements that my husband turned into beautiful ShyJot Fine Arts financials, I backed up my hard drive, made my next two-week menu and grocery list, and balanced my checkbook. And I felt GREAT! It was exactly the thing I wanted to do with the day. My kids played on devices all day, on the phone with a friend part of the day. My husband helped me out. And we managed a couple of naps, Frito chili pies, chicken pot pies, and the apple pie my boys co-baked. My husband baked the last of the fall pie pumpkins.

We’ve seen my parents half faces (above masks only) twice this weekend. Once to take them an apple pie and once to lend them space heaters. I didn’t expect to see them at all, and the brief encounters felt like an unusual luxury.

On Friday, my husband pulled down all the Christmas decorations from the attic. We put up shrubbery lights for the first time every and a few other front-porch decorations my father made. We got the inside of the house completely decorated, save for the tree(s), which I suppose is a pretty big part. But we also trimmed the hedges and raked pine needles and dusted the books and got the dining table to baseline zero.

Now it’s Saturday. I woke early. We still haven’t had bubble bread so I decided to make it this morning. I suppose we’ll eat it tonight. That pie pumpkin is being put to use today, too.

There’s still so much to do. Always. And there’s still a lingering sadness about being apart from the ones I love. Always.

But I am thankful. Most of what I’m thankful for is purely circumstance, right? What if I didn’t have a warm home. What if I didn’t have enough to eat. What if my loved ones were actively dying or newly gone. And on. And on. I fervently hope I’d still find thankfulness in some corner of my soul. And I just as fervently hope I don’t ever have to test that hope.

I’m not here to judge how anybody feels this holiday season. I’m not here to tell you that getting stuff off your to-do list will magically make life better. I’m certainly not here to tell you not to miss your loved ones, not to mourn with those who mourn, not to rejoice with those who rejoice. I’m not here to tell you to be thankful or how to be thankful.

I am here to say this: I’m thankful you’re in this whole wide world with me. You make it richer and more vibrant. You make me want to be and do better every day. Thank you for being.

Anxiety and Depression Quarantine Uncategorized

My Election 2020: The In-Between

I lie awake at 3:50 am on the morning of an American presidential election.

The cynic in me strongly fears the hate to come in the next 24 hours and beyond. But I have this tiny kernel of hope. And it’s not based on a candidate but on the thousands of voters that threaded through a parking lot on Saturday.

Early voting was open at two locations, and my husband and I chose one Saturday. Delayed by a bad car battery, we got to the polling place about thirty minutes after voting opened. We began on a sidewalk. Beside the main thoroughfare. Not even in the parking lot.

If you’ve ever read this site, you know I am an anxious person. There was not a single moment in that line when I felt worried about violence. Reflecting afterward, I thought maybe I should have been more on guard. Maybe.

The line snaked into the parking lot of a big building and paraded around two sides and a bit more before turning on its heel and winding all the way around the building. People chatted. Some for each candidate. But they kept their voices conversational. Dogs and toddlers endlessly entertained the masses. And people greeted acquaintances as the line doubled back.

Some dragged chairs along. Others, blankets or books or children. One in a pair would sometimes disappear only to re-emerge with fast food sustenance. People held the line for bathroom breakers.

I chatted about the Yankees with a man whose political beliefs couldn’t be further from my own. I know this because he spent a good while quietly spiraling into rhetoric with another voter directly behind me.

Five hours and forty-five minutes. That was how long we walked that line to cast our votes. And it was not miserable. It was not hostile. Indeed, it was frequently adorable, humorous, and celebratory without ever being openly for or against anyone.

Last Monday through Sunday, our home had power loss due to an ice storm. We weren’t alone. Many in that line were struggling with all manner of private hardships. The stressors of race (particularly for people of color), election, pandemic, and economy were all present.

From what I’ve read in the press, we should have been balanced on a blade. We should have been at fisticuffs and throats. We should have had guns cocked and been ready to loot.

Herein I find my hope for this election. Not in dire warnings or free press or a candidate. Certainly not in polls. But in the America in between. In there between left and right, between policies and politics, between caricatures of opposing vagaries—that’s where the ideals of America still live.

For places and people who experience violence today—and I know it could be any of us—you have my heart. But maybe the in-between will conquer, as it does, quietly, unobtrusively, without a fuss. Maybe the in-between will not only be the backbone of America today but its very flesh. One can hope.

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