Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks Gibbing

We’ve been living in a far away place for the past few years, only recently to have returned – moved back. Over these past few years, Thanksgiving has become our holiday. Yes, we’ve taken Thanksgiving and owned it. It was ours. Interestingly, this was not something that just happened overnight. Seriously, Thanksgiving was certainly not our best holiday until after we moved to Illinois.

After we were married, on our very first Thanksgiving together, we had our very first fight. Yep, Thanksgiving will forever be burdened with the memory of our first fight. It was also the beginning of the traveling holiday. We’re blessed to have our families living close enough to make traveling between my parents, her parents and her grandmother’s very possible. On that day, like many Thanksgivings since, we started the day at her parents – our first meal. After eating a full Thanksgiving meal at her parents, we moved onto the second home – her Grandmother’s. Although this was not a full meal stop, we ate some of the snacks that were offered. And finally, we ventured onto my parents where another full Thanksgiving meal awaited. We progressed from home to home on schedule. It was a schedule we all understood; however, no matter how fair the time is divided, someone will feel like we spent too much time at one place while another will feel like we didn’t spend enough. That was the foundation of our first fight. Although we haven’t had such a fight since, the feelings that were part of that fight have truly been a cloud overshadowing some of the many holidays in the ensuing 20 years.

Yep, for the next nine years, we traveled every Thanksgiving. Not to enchanting new destinations far, far away but from our house, to her parents’ house, to her grandmother’s house, to my parents house. It was not ideal but it worked for us and everyone was mostly happy with the arrangement.

In 1998, we moved our family to Illinois. Yes, and similar to our marriage, the first holiday after this life-changing event was Thanksgiving. It was only weeks after our exodus. No one was quite used to this strange land in which we found ourselves. It was certainly very strange to this group of hitherto Californians. We had only just begun to experience the wonder that is autumn. Most of the leaves had fallen off the trees and the days were getting very short. To the uninitiated, it was quite cold. Though it had a population of 45,000 and it sat right next to a city of 60,000, our little town seemed to be nothing but a small island in the middle of nowhere.

Interestingly, we had never actually prepared a complete Thanksgiving holiday feast. We were both pretty excited about doing the whole kit-n-caboodle but that excitement was not enough to over come the dread we felt at being alone – five people alone together 2000 miles away from the rest of our families. To look at the pictures of the Thanksgiving spread, you can see how difficult the day was for us. The smiles are forced and the windows in the background are very dark – the normal mealtime had passed hours before. We just didn’t get into the holiday mood that Thanksgiving day.

The next eight Thanksgivings though were wonderful celebrations. Sometimes we’d invite new families – others who had recently moved into the area. Our hope was to help other families avoid the disappointing first holiday away from family. The day was a very relaxing day of family togetherness. Our mealtime turned out to be the normal mid-afternoon event, followed by a long evening of games, movies or other family togetherness. Thanksgiving became our favorite holiday. It was MY holiday. My family day. My Day of thanksgiving and My time to enjoy the people that meant the most to me. I fell in love with the holiday.

We’re back in California this year, after moving back to the west coast in February. It isn’t going to be the same as it has been the last nine years. My holiday has to change. My Thanksgiving is no longer MINE. I have to share My Thanksgiving with the Parents again.

Sadly, Grandma Palmer has passed away. She will not be part of Thanksgiving this year. I will miss that stop on our Traveling holiday. In fact, I think I will drive down Imperial Highway just so we maintain the same course we always took before. We’ll drive near her house, though, without stopping. I think it important enough to express some gratitude for what she brought to our lives. She was a very kind woman and I can see much of this in my Dearest.

This year is our 20th Thanksgiving together. 20 years and I’ve a lot for which I most assuredly feel thankful. I think this year will not be anything like those past years. I have matured; many things have increased import while others have lessened. Dearest has been a wonderful part of my life. I can hardly recognize how the time has been spent so quickly. I’m amazed. Our oldest is 17, a senior in high school and eyeing college with great anticipation. It almost seems like yesterday we hadn’t any children at all. The journey has been wonderful but quick. I’m grateful for the intensity with which we’ve lived the past many years. I hope the next 20 will be just as intense and full of life.

My Dearest has never been one to wait for life to happen, grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and steering the course she wishes to take. I like that! My Dearest has always stood behind me in all my endeavors – even when she was opposed to them – giving me the strength I needed. She’s even helped me get back on my feet when my failures were those she had foreseen. I’ve much comfort knowing how much I can depend on her. My Dearest always expresses her concern for me, never leaving me room for speculation or doubt. I love my Dearest with all my heart even though I seldom show it perfectly. I am grateful for everything she has brought into my life and every feeling she with which she has endowed me.

As we embark on a new chapter in the Traveling Holiday, I know that one thing hasn’t changed. Thanksgiving just would not be a Holiday without Dearest. I fully intend to maintain Thanksgiving as MINE. Sure, I’ll not spend Thanksgiving morning and much of the afternoon sitting in my own family room watching college football. It will still be MINE. Sure, I’ll spend a few hours on the road traveling from our house to her parents’ house to my parents’ house and back again. It will still be My Holiday. Sure, there may be someone who is unhappy with something. That someone will not be one of us. Thanksgiving will still be OURS.
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