December starts on a Monday? I hardly feel caught up from the crush of work before Thanksgiving and here I am, typing this post, wondering how it became December.
That’s pretty much how I always feel about the passage of time, though. They say the days are long but the years are short.
I think it’s all short.
I started this very melancholy post about Thanksgiving before Thanksgiving got underway. I felt so thankful and also so hopeless–as though no amount of gratitude would ever chip away at the desperate things in the world. I was feeling depressed about the book I was reading for my book club (The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd–it’s really amazing and soul-crushing) and I felt awful over the decision and subsequent pain in Ferguson, Missouri. I read the post over and over again, trying to make it make sense for anyone else. And then I did what any good writer should do with something that only makes sense to them.
I slept on it.
I woke up to Thanksgiving at my in-laws house. My daughters rumbled into our bedroom and then proceeded to wake their grandparents. We ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast.
We dressed for the family football game–a tradition on this side of the family for close to ten years that I’ve been attending since I was pregnant with my oldest. The game used to take place in the palatial yard of a second cousin but the kids have grown and the crowd has grown. This year, it was at some sports complex. I felt lucky to be included and also happy to watch my little girls run around the field with their older cousins.
On the way home, stuck in traffic on route 95, we listened to the full version of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant. Radio stations around the country play the 18-minute version on Thanksgiving and we first caught it on the way home from the football game years back. We were running late, my father-in-law and me in the front seat, my husband squished in the backseat with the girls, and we crept along, listening to the rollicking bridge of the song played over Guthrie’s narrative.
We arrived home. My mother-in-law was rightfully annoyed that we had run behind. She and I chatted in her bedroom while she stewed and I felt really daughter-like in that moment.
As the rest of the family came over, we heated the food that we cooked the day before. My father-in-law fussed over the turkey, and made a mess in his wake. We collaborated on the gravy which he presented proudly when we sat down to eat together.
Dinner was delicious and lovely. It began with the kindergarteners, my daughter and her cousin, making presentations they had practiced in school. My nephew read a story and my daughter recited a poem. Our table has changed over the years and their dear little faces making brave proclamations made me smile even if they rejected the cranberry sauce I dutifully prepared for them.
After dinner, the children played on their own and most of the adults played dominoes. The early dinner gave way to a later bedtime and eventually my eldest asked for help brushing her teeth. The cousins left, the hubub quieted, and my children drifted off to sleep, bellies full of hot chocolate, cookies, donuts, turkey and cake.
And the weekend ambled on just like that, with food and people and leisure. I learned to knit again, and after suffering through a frustrating session of casting on, the knitting and purling flowed easily. I watched a silly movie with my in-laws, snuggled on the their new couch. I talked on the phone to my sister, also at her mother-in-law’s house this holiday, and I felt like a teenager gabbing with her best friend. I visited with old friends of my husband’s who were now my old friends, too. I looked around at this family that was now my family. I felt at home.
We drove home after dinner on Saturday night. The girls were deep asleep in the backseat when we pulled into the icy driveway. We unlocked the house and carried their tired, curly heads up to their beds, my favorite parenting duty. I remember being carried in to my family home after a holiday at my grandparents’ house growing up, riding in the backseat of the Bonneville rousing to see Boathouse Row–“the gingerbread houses” as we knew them–lit up at night and then snuggling back in for the remainder of the ride across the Ben Franklin Bridge. I always felt so safe when my parents first carried then ushered me back into our house.
It was a weekend where I felt so saliently like a daughter and a mother, and rather than feel the tension between those two roles, I felt squished snugly into them.
Our Sunday at home was full of catching up and playing around. And Sunday night was a whirlwind of cooking, fixing and cleaning to feel ready to face this first Monday of December. The run up to the last month of the year makes me wonder if I’ve been asleep for weeks.
And I remembered the melancholy essay I wrote five days ago, the one I thought no one would understand. With some distance and headspace, I felt less agitated. I had struggled to capture something so simple: no amount of thankfulness or gratitude or grace will ever be enough to make others know or feel the kind of peace I feel some times.
And I could let this idea crush me or I could simply shine thankfulness all of the time.
And so it goes.