Thanksgiving


83rd ANNUAL MACY's THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE 201...

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade by asterix611 via Flickr

It’s not Thanksgiving here though the dreadful traditional shopping orgy that follows has permeated Canadian culture to the point where it rivals our own consumption holiday on Boxing Day. Today is just Thursday and while the Christmas lights are decking the house and Dee has set up the tiny pre-lit tree she’s had since she was three in her bedroom to act as a festive night-light, there is nothing particularly holiday about today.

Our own Thanksgiving is on a Monday, which might seem odd but three-day weekends with a holiday at either end make far more sense than sticking a holiday in the middle of a week and trying to pretend it is a four-day weekend. It’s not for most people and many people don’t even have Thanksgiving off either when you consider that those in retail will be going to work in the middle of the night to accommodate Black Friday gluttony.

I haven’t shopped a Black Friday in five years and I can’t say I miss it. Alright, I miss having lunch out that day, but that’s about all, and eating lunch and having a chai was about all the consuming I did on that day anyway. Thanks to my peculiar habit of starting my Christmas shopping pre-Halloween, I was normally done before Thanksgiving. As everyone else madly lunged for the bargains, I was just looking and sipping my tea and thinking about where to eat lunch. The highlight of the day was spending time with whoever I happened to be shopping with – BFF, Sis, Mom, and very rarely DNOS, who would rather have stakes driven through her arms and legs than go shopping just about ever.

It was all about the lunch. In Dubuque, we went to the Mining Company. Mushroom burgers, baskets of fries or chicken taco salad. When the shopping venue was Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines, Cheesecake Factory – which is also where Sis and I went when we took bus trips down to Kansas City to Christmas shop in the downtown.

Shopping with Dee means Kelsey’s and out and about with Rob on a shopping trip could be anything quick, Wendy’s or Timmy’s.

On Thanksgiving itself, I never had to cook. The first Thanksgiving meal I made was for my first Canadian Thanksgiving, and I needed Rob’s help because I had no idea how to cook a bird. Zero. Putting together a large meal for many people was not even on my list of skills. I faced a steep learning curve that first year of marriage. It’s somewhat amusing to look back at it now when one considers that I was 43 with a five-year old and a previous marriage of six years under my belt and I couldn’t cook a dinner of note to save my very soul.

The purpose behind days of thanksgiving is reflection, taking stock and recognizing what you really have.

First thing this morning, I walked into the office to find my freshly showered husband chatting at the Bell customer service rep about issues with our data plan, I realized all over again what a magnificent mate I have, wrangling with the little issues might seem a little thing until you stop to think about the fact that life is built on a mountain of little issues.

I was reminded a bit later during my chat with CB earlier today that whatever our short-comings, we are blessed to still be in contact. Not every everyone stays connected to some or all of their siblings over the course of their lifetime.

During our conversation CB mentioned that he’d chatted with Mick on Facebook that morning, and I am reminded that I have two of the most amazingly awesome grown daughters.

A snowy white owl Christmas tree ornament at Chapters today reminded me of Dee and her little tree and how both make me smile.

Facebook was littered with updates from this relative or that old friend, marking the day and wishing well.

It’s just a Thursday. Even in the States, it’s just Thursday. But, despite Nickelback’s marring of the traditional NFL game in Detroit, which at least held to the tradition of the Lion’s losing, it’s a glorious day and one I am for which I am thankful. Those thanks are numbered in people.


Christmas 1979, Northeast Philadelphia, PA

Image by jaycoxfilm via Flickr

With the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday nearly upon us and our little house on the Canadian prairie covered with snow, Christmas cannot be far off, and with the holidays comes massive doses of family dysfunction.

No sooner had the Facebook brouhaha with Rob’s younger brother Tyke settled into an awkward semi-silence than noises began emanating from Rob’s in-laws that could spell trouble for the holidays.

This comes on top of my mother-in-law’s future husband’s being targeted by a Canadian Border official with a bug up her butt.

But my family can be counted on to induce annoyance too.

As I was sitting at soccer practice Saturday morning , working on a short story when I suppose I should have been raptly worshipping the mini-me of my loins, Mom called.

In the old days of yore, whenever she called me at home and got the answering machine, she would immediately call my cell. Her use of my cell as a GPS was my chief reason for fighting my late husband’s insistence that I own a cell phone in the first place.

“You need this to be safe,” was his angle. Though truthfully, he just loved cell phones and loved the idea of us being just a transmitter tower away from each other when we weren’t physically together.

“My mother will use this to keep perpetual tabs on me,” I told him. “She will call just to chat, to vent and it won’t matter where I am or what I am doing.”

It wasn’t until the dang-it thing began interrupting us when we were out to dinner or shopping or just flitting about from here to there that he understood what I already knew about Mom.  He considered it a small price for me to pay so that he could call me during our mutual break times during the day.

Now though, Mom rarely deploys her tracking option – unless something is up.

“Have you talked to your sister?” she asked.

I had not and being asked if I had set off internal alerts.

“I’ve decided not to give any gifts to anyone but the little grand-kids this year,” she said.

And by “little” she means Dee and her cousin N2. Not N1, the nearly 17-year-old for whom it’s been Christmas for quite some time in terms of his Grandmother’s largess.

“Did you send us a check last year?” I asked.

Long ago my parents dispensed with the hassle of actual presents and just gave us money. One hundred dollars to be precise.

“I think so,” she said. “Didn’t you get it?”

Although I couldn’t remember at all, I assured her that we did indeed get it because I didn’t need her panicking and prowling through her check stubs from a year ago.

“It’s okay, Mom,” I said. “We don’t need a gift.”

“I’m just going to be all about me this year,” she explained. “It’s been Christmas all year for some and I think I should spend my money on myself.”

Hallelujah! I can’t recall how long I have been at her to simply spend her money on herself. The less she leaves behind, the easier my life will be as I am currently named in her will as the executor of the trusts she’s set up for my youngest siblings. I am all in favor of there being nothing to care-take.

“Did they take it well?” I meant my siblings and nephew.

“I’ve only told you and DNOS,” she said.

But they shouldn’t be surprised because she’s already cut them off from the nickel and dime fountain. Which is why she was really calling me.

Baby’s live-in common-law (I guess) mate, LawnMowerMan, is not happy. Baby is used to calling up Mom and nagging the occasional $20 or $30 out of her from time to time.

The money is for cigarettes mainly but given LawnMowerMan’s heavy drinking, I imagine she buys him booze as well when his paycheck runs short.

Cut off from easy pocket change and living so far below the poverty line that it likely isn’t clearly visible from their little pocket of have-nothingness, LMM has resorted to calling up Mom and harassing her again.

Whenever he is tired of Baby, and this usually happens when Baby is broke, he uses the phone in attempt to intimidate my mother.

He’s a violent man. He’s a drunk. And he has such a low stake in life that he doesn’t hesitate to use whatever means necessary to improve his tenuous grip.

DNOS has officially declared both our younger siblings “dead to her”. When things come up with either then, who’s Mom gonna call?

But what can I do from 1500 miles away and in another country?

After speaking with her, I tracked DNOS down later in the day and asked her to help Mom put a block on Baby’s home number and to look into re-keying the locks and making sure that only she, our mother and our aunt have access to the house.

It’s all I can do.

Oh, I could call Baby and read her the riot act but she has no control over that piece of shit she lives with and I would probably put her at risk if he were around when I phoned.

I am not afraid of the guy though I am keenly aware that he is capable of hurting just about anyone physically if he is inclined. I am hoping this blows over but as Rob pointed out:

“Of course it won’t.  As soon as we show up there in March, something will happen. We never visit that Baby isn’t at the center of some dysfunction or other.”

So, I may have simply postponed the shit splattering until I can take care of business in person.

Ah, can’t you just feel the holidays coming?


The High School Sweethearts

From time to time  the oldest daughter would shyly announce that she’d “met a boy”.  Sometimes that’d be it. But occasionally a date or two-ish followed only for said “boy” to be quickly banished for his clinging ways or over-enthusiastic interest in her.

One thing about both of my step-daughters that struck me early is that neither one has a clear picture of themselves in relationship to how others see them.  Attention and enthusiasm seem to puzzle them.

That young men notice them is no surprise to me.  Each in her own way is a bright light that naturally draws the eye and incites interest.

The “boy” in question turned out to be the older brother of a friend.  I can’t recall if they’d met previously, but they collided with some force at a party, which found them sitting on the roof, deep in conversation for five hours.

“He thinks I’m funny,” she chirped bemusedly.

He probably thinks you are quite beautiful too, I thought but knew better than to say aloud.

“Anyway,” she continued, “we have a date.”

And we didn’t hear about “the boy” again for some weeks.

Edie will be 28 on Thanksgiving (the Canadian one) this year. Her age and singleness have been a growing concern – to her. Rob was unconcerned. His ambivalence about the girls and “boys” is amusing and reminds me a lot of my own father, who had little visible interest in his children’s marital status*.

I tried to be encouraging without being nosy. I am not her mother. Although we have a good relationship, it is not a deep one. She has her confidants, and I am unlikely to be added to the list. That’s okay. I don’t have expectations of being a mother-like figure for her. I came into her life late, and we simply haven’t had, and most probably won’t have, opportunities to bond in that way.

But I wasn’t surprised that a “boy” would find her funny, want to take her out or discover a way to pursue her without sending her in search of her hidey-hole in the hills. That clever “boy” was bound to show up some day.

On Father’s Day, Edie brought him up again. She’d just gotten back from a long weekend in the States, and he surprised her with wine and flowers.

“He missed me,” she blushed a bit.

At the end of a Sunday supper visit later in the summer, I inquired about whether she would be bringing the “boy”, who now had a name which peppered her conversation, to visit.

“It’s too soon for that,” she said.

And I let it go, but I told Rob I expected we’d meet this “boy” by Thanksgiving.

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” he replied.

Christmas at the latest perhaps, but I am guessing sooner rather than later,” I said.

She brought him around for Rob’s birthday at the end of August. A bit sooner than I thought, and the significance of the occasion wasn’t lost, even on her father.

We knew a lot about him by then.

Edie had breathlessly updated Rob as he lay in the hospital the night of his heart attack. Worried perhaps that she wouldn’t have another chance?

At one point during her gushing, Mick leaned over to me and said, “I wish she’d just marry him and shut up about it.”

Silver is a paragon though this is no surprise as like as he is to Rob.

He is handy. Renovating his first house and flipping it for his current fixer-upper. He’s outdoorsy. Good with the romantic gestures and sweeping a girl off her feet moves in a way that cast me back to my early days knowing Rob.

The clincher, I think, was an extended weekend camping trip he planned for the two of them.

“He’s doing everything,” she said. “And I don’t even have to drive!”

So familiar. The keepers must all get the same playbook handed to them before they embark on a new existence.

His first Sunday dinner with us was enlightening as it was vindicating. He was, however, not what any of us had envisioned.

Rob feigned indifference to the potentially momentous occasion.

“I’ve met boyfriends before,” he said.

“But have they had good jobs, their own transportation and owned property?” I asked.

“Good point,” he said.

And upon first glance, he was handsome with pants that sat at his waist and a ball-cap that just about hid his Dermot Mulroney eyes.

During their first conversation, Silver explained to Rob that he liked to do all the renovation work himself because he was “too cheap to pay someone”, and I had to turn around and find something to do in the dining room to keep from laughing out loud where I found Mick snickering knowingly.

When I commented on that revelation later, Rob simply said,

“Don’t go there.”

Barely a week later, a Facebook message from Edie announced their intention to come to dinner again.

“Why so soon?” I asked. “What’s up?”

“Maybe they just want to spend time with us,” Rob said. “There doesn’t have to be something up.”

But of course there was. The children want to spend time with us only about every six weeks more or less.

I am not Edie’s mother but I did watch** them carefully that first supper. Silver had eyes or a hand on her at all times, and I have seen that look before. It’s the one that says everything in the world that will ever matter is right in front of you, and you still can’t quite believe it.

The second dinner was a family dinner. Teasing and stories and protests that nothing more can possibly be consumed even as hands move to refill plates.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Until we were at the door, Mick, Silver and Edie saying their good nights. Edie suddenly threw her arms around her Dad’s neck and said,

“So …” Long pause and deep breath expelling a rush of words she’d clearly rehearsed. “I’m moving in with Silver at the end of October.”

Rob blinked but said nothing. This produced a slightly less breathless rush to fill the gap as Edie began to expound on the foolishness of renting a place she was never at anymore and that finding a sublet had been easy and that Rob wouldn’t have to move the couch again – in case he was worried about that.

“Well, I’m certainly not helping with that couch again,” Mick chimed in.

My heart sank a bit at the “rent saving” reason. I don’t think that money should ever be the motivating factor for couples to co-habitate. It should always be based on love, and the realization that a shared journey is the only option for them even if achieving this means scrapping one life, or both, to rebuild the new one together.  Expense, logistics, degree of difficulty are to be treated as details only. And then Silver broke into her monologue with

“And she likes me.”

And she does more than that. She’s giving up the city, her beloved neighborhood of Whyte Ave to move to the suburbs. Her sensible speech was for Rob because all his daughters from oldest to smallest value his opinion and respect and want him to approve and be proud.

“Well, I told you so,” I said.

The next day Rob asked,

“How long have they been seeing each other again?”

“How long did we know each other before we were engaged and I was leaving the U.S. and everything I knew?” I said.

“We weren’t kids,” he countered, “but good point.”

“They aren’t kids. Twenty-eight and thirty-two are firmly in adult territory.”

“Good point again.”

“He’s good for her. She loves him,” I said, “and he fits.”

And now that I have officially blogged about him – he’s family.

*Save for that of my youngest sister. Her habit of breeding with men she either wasn’t interested in marrying or those who were not interested in marrying her drove him to distraction periodically.

**I watch because I care deeply about her happiness and because I have this inexplicable sense of obligation to Shelley to keep watch in her absence. It’s something only mothers would understand, I think.


It was Thanksgiving in the States yesterday. Today, fortified by turkey and mashed taters, people are on the material end of the orgy that the holiday has become.

Oh sure, I read Facebook status updates and blogs that give thanks, but for the most part, I think the original meaning has been lost. It is a day to dig deep, be grateful and give the gift of time to those who are most special.

Holidays like Thanksgiving have a tendency to draw out the opposite emotions. I read just as many blog pieces denouncing the idea of gratitude, and citing all the reasons for doing so, as I read positive spins.

It’s not Thanksgiving here in Canada. Ours was weeks ago. Canadians sensibly schedule it for Monday and because it’s far too early to worry about Christmas, there is no accompanying shopping frenzy. The last time I went out on Black Friday was 2004. My folks and nephew had come to celebrate with us. Not that the spirit of gratitude was easy to muster. Will had gone into the nursing home about five-weeks before and I brought him home for the day. He was miserable because his mother refused to come join us. She always had this weird thing about my parents. She thought, and I don’t know where it came from, that my family was a step up the middle-class rung from hers. She imagined that my parents judged her. Which wasn’t true. Her behavior puzzled them because they simply couldn’t understand why she wasn’t stepping up to be more of a help than hinderance, but they didn’t judge her. Not like my sister, DNOS, anyway, who thought that MIL’s whingeing was over the top and self-serving.

I think Mom went out with me and I found a sweater at Old Navy that I still have because it is very warm. We didn’t get to the mall until well after the mob had been through. That same mall opened today at 3AM with a pancake breakfast for shoppers before the stores opened at 4 or 5AM. I don’t think any amount of savings is worth getting up in the middle of the night.

All in all, it wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving. Life had settled into a routine and though it was a lonely one for me, I knew that it could easily have been worse. So I was as grateful as I could be and tried not to grouse. The year before, after all, I was looking at the possibility of losing my house and worrying about my brain-damaged husband, who I couldn’t afford to put in a daycare and was leaving him on his own while I worked. Things were better by comparison.

Thanksgiving right before Will died and the next year were spent with my best friend’s family. She took us in for holidays a lot and honestly, it was very nice. Dee had kids to play with and I had friends to interact with, and maybe it might seem awful and sad to some people, but we always had a reasonably good time.

And it was a day off work. Days off were welcome because my daily routine was long and numbing more often than not.

And still, it could have been worse.

Most people don’t like to look at the brighter side when they are unhappy with life’s lot. For the vast majority, there is a lot to be grateful for in spite of personal difficulties. And that’s what holidays are really for anyway. They are an opportunity to take off the tunnel vision specs and take a good, honest look around.

 


Heading down to Saskatchewan in a while for the holiday weekend. Got to hand to it Canadians, they know how to space their holidays. Back in the States it’s feast of famine in terms of time away from the grind but up here the year seems to be evenly broken into a plethora of official holidays that result in three and four day weekends. That’s another thing about Canadians, whenever possible, they hold their holidays on Monday. The school year, which would break the back of the average American kid, is ten whole months long but it has all these lovely holidays in addition to the official provincial and national ones. Yes, that’s right. Provinces can schedule their own holidays. Puts U.S. states’ rights in its rightful place, right between “weenie” and “wuss”.

Monday is Thanksgiving here. We had planned to lay about. There is work to be done winterizing and since it seem to be snowing all around us, though not here yet, it’s something we need to be moving a bit more swiftly on. However, Rob’s mom is moving to B.C. in a few weeks and needed him to come down and take care of a few things his younger sister can’t help out with. Yeah, there is a story there but I am not at liberty to tell it. Suffice to say that are issues and I am sure you can imagine the rest without any further assistance. I am just standing over here in the corner of my blog, not saying a word.

Saskatchewan is an eight hour drive through terrain that makes Nebraska seem interesting. Since I have made it once before, and much of it is on two lane highway (Canadians do not believe in mega highways like Americans do. Back in the states there are four lane highways in the middle of nowhere simply so farmers can get from the homestead to the back forty fifteen minutes faster). It takes forever to get there. Though once there, Regina is a somewhat interesting place. A place I won’t see much more of this time than the first time I was there in June. Perhaps I will get a bit of real writing done as I will be internet inaccessible, but more likely I will work on yet another attempt at winning the mystery story contest in the Edmonton journal. Some other SAHM won it this week which means I have to read another chapter in this increasingly boring story. But, I am nothing if not pig-headed and single-minded when it comes to at least seeing this damn contest through to its end. I suppose I could write one of those “thankful” lists that people do when Thanksgiving comes around. When I was in grade school the nuns had us do this every year. It was a bit like having to think up sins for confession once a month. Not that I haven’t much to be thankful for but the holiday itself is such a sham. Below the 49th it is sold as the day the pilgrims sat down with their friendly Native American neighbors and gave thanks for surviving their first year. Of course the real story behind the Plymouth pilgrims is more on the order of the sordid stuff that would have made it an awesome reality show had there been such a thing as television back then. Then, of course, is the reality that Thanksgiving was actually a propaganda tool of the Lincoln administration during that unpopular war he was stuck with known as the Civil War. But whatever, I am not at all sure what meaning Canadians have attached to it beyond the fact that it’s been about six weeks since the last holiday Monday around here.

I am thankful for the six or ten of you who read this blog and want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving from Canada.