Gerontology practicum: the holiday version

When our friends invited us to their ranch for Thanksgiving, I knew that my mother would want to stay here. And that she wouldn't mind if we went. This took me YEARS to understand...well, I can't say that I understand, but I do accept that she is being honest and determined. She and I view holidays very differently.

I have my theories of why Thanksgiving is such a non-holiday for Mom. She was a single mom, she was tired, she didn't enjoy cooking, and getting the house in order was exhausting. Her daughters (that would be me and my sister) did not help. We weren't asked to help, and it sure never occurred to us to offer. Add all that together and what happens? No fun for the mamasan!

When I moved out on my own and invited Mom to our home for Thanksgiving dinner, she firmly announced that she was going to stay home, on her couch, eating whatever she wanted and NOT getting overheated and anxious in the kitchen. She was not going to struggle through holiday traffic. She was going to stay home and be happy. I thought she was nuts.

You see, I look at this day a little differently. Thanksgiving is, in fact, my favorite holiday. I get to prepare and eat some of my favorite foods, we gather around our table with many of our dear family, and it is in the midst of beautiful autumn. But, I have the luxury of having a helpful husband, a man who is known for his delicious pumpkin pie. I feel very comfortable asking for help, and my children even offer. Thanksgiving is a lot easier when you're in it together.

Since Mom moved here in 2003, we have again enjoyed having holiday meals together. She does not need to drive anywhere. She can make a dish or two without any chaos or stress. She can stay as long as she wishes, and she can go home for a rest if needed. It is the perfect arrangement for her.

And it is perfect for us, too. She is there to play her crucial role as Gravy Muse, and our meal is much better for it. Having Mom at the table is always a plus; she is a dream guest, full of interesting conversation and laughter. She appreciates the food and makes me feel like a million bucks for making it. I love it.

But this Thanksgiving will be around a gargantuan table in a Victorian farmhouse in the midst of acres of walnut trees. Familiar foods, favorite friends, a beautiful place to roam, hours of talking as we cook, and guarantees of deep talks and plenty of laughter. We are anticipating JOY.

But Mom would rather stay here. She's not up for the travel, and she's not up for too much noise (and we will be a noisy bunch.) In decades past, this would have resulted in a huge argument for us. But I get it now: Mom is not wrong, and I am not right. We are different. Period. The day is not important to her; what matters to her is family, a beautiful meal, time together. And so we will do that in December, when Madelaine arrives home. A second Thanksgiving with the whole family; it will be an added layer of joy.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mama. Our gravy won't be the same without you, but we wish you joy and quiet and rest. Love you!


Missy K said…
There is so much wisdom here.

Conventional wisdom says the adult child always struggles to be seen as distinct, able to have her own views and foibles like any other adult. But I think you have hit on an ignored issue-- our need to recognize our parents as individuals, and respect that. Since we came from them, perhaps we expect them to care about things the same way we do, and are bewildered and even angry when they don't.

It is wonderful that you are able to let it go, to give you and your mom spaces to experience the holiday in your different ways. And another reunion and feast to look forward to-- what blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Di said…
Thanks, Missy. It's been a long process. I even had to double check last night and make sure Mom really was okay with the plans. And she really, really is (-:

The Prude said…
Everything is lovely about this post- the insight, the photos, the tribute, the tears I have now missing my own mom.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
DebD said…
Yes, truly a lovely post. I tend to lean more toward your mother's thinking. But, I don't know how I could logistically do that.

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