Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All Roads Lead to Home

Thanksgiving has taken its time, but has become my favorite of holidays. My mom died on Thanksgiving Day...and so, for years, it was a day of great grief and sadness in our small home in New Jersey. I was not quite four at the time, so many of the real memories of her evade me even now. But I'll never forget the tears in my dad's eyes when he'd lift me up on his knee. How hard it must've been for him!

One of the first Thanksgiving memories I have was the one in which my sister Dub's teacher game for dinner. I remember her name...Mrs. Tozer, Geraldine, and her husband's name, Warren. It was the second Thanksgiving after my mom had died, and the turkey was not defrosted! Who knew? My sister, Carol, was in charge of that stuff at the mere age of twelve. My dad was overseeing it too, of course, but jeesh, none of this seems real to me, even now, a million years after the fact. That turkey was pulled and plunked in and out of cold water baths to defrost it, but no luck! We had hamburgers for dinner instead! I can only imagine my father's shame. But I do remember the Tozers' laughter, and that was enough to pull us all through.

This year, I'll have 49 guests for Thanksgiving, down from the 55 I originally expected. The ranks are shifting. This kind of event is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. Years ago, I joined my husband's family for Thanksgiving...I think I was about 21 or 22 at the time. His family of 8 (plus me) joined the McGowan tribe of 9 and that was how it all began. By the time I joined them, they'd been performing this feast for about eleven years. Now it's been well over forty!

What I remember most about our huge family feasts is not the food, or the exact conversations I've had. It's the welcoming sound of laughter that reverberates off the ceilings and walls and sticks inside the core of my soul. I know it sounds corny, and I've never told any of them this...but when you start out a tradition of grief and sadness, it's hard for a little kid to recover from that. Their laughter shocked me at first, really! But now, I live for that sound.

So tomorrow, there'll be tables upon tables in my great room. There'll be chafing dishes and platters of food. The fire will be lit, the glasses all full and the house will burst at its seams.
And I...will suck it all in for another year...me that little adoptive daughter from New Jersey, with the two families of my dreams. Honestly, sometimes I do have to pinch myself. The laughter, the love and the being together...that combination can honestly heal anything! And even though I won't be with my own siblings and my parents too, they're never too far from my heart.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Seeing the Forest and the Trees

Pondering. That is actually where I've been all these long weeks. Feeling a little lost, I've been plagued by self-doubt. Blocked, but faking it all the way. But really. I'd just forgotten to look up! November has its way with me every year, but this started way before that.

Early October hit hard, work, home, commitments, visitors, etc. Distractions and diversions. My writing brain just loves them! I've been playing in the field of self-doubt lately...and that is a dangerous thing.

But today, I pushed myself out of the hole. I've been immersed in memoir with my sixth graders, carving out samples of writing and sharing them with my kids. I've been working on the all too familiar 'Show, Don't Tell' lesson, watching them and reading what they've actually put on the page. When all of a sudden a voice from the back of the room cries out..."Now I get it! It's like living in that moment!"

Well, exactly! Be the moment! I heard a football player interviewed recently, and he said when he's headed toward the end zone, he is transcended...he is the ball. So, my message to my kids was actually the reteaching my writing brain needed too; be one with the story. Not so new to me. But somehow when I'm living in self-doubt, I never seem to see the trees, because I'm staring at the forest floor.

A little while after that, two girls stopped me on the way out of class and asked...no, demanded that I think inside my eleven year old brain. The decision was about braces. "Translucent or metal," they asked. "Metal," I said. "Definitely. I love all the color possibilities...and I could actually arrange my outfits to match!" Suddenly, they (and the universe) had taught me a whole lot more than I could've learned for myself.

So hello to my inner eleven year old; and hello story again! It feels so good to have that buzzing sound back inside my brain!

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