I’m going to share with you something I wrote in a moment of sadness last year on Thanksgiving morning. But stay with me… it all has a happy ending.
I Always Broke the Bread
That was always my Thanksgiving job. Every year, I would roll out of bed at what… 10:00am? 11:00am? (Remember those days?) And make my lame offer to help.
<yawn> “Mom, what can I do?”
“You can break the bread for the stuffing,” she would say every year.
Every year, she would explain that stale Wonder Bread was good for the stuffing. I would break the bread. She would look over my shoulder to make sure the pieces weren’t too big. “That’s fine,” she would tell me.
Every year, I would roll out of bed and the house would smell delicious. Like turkey and holidays and warmth. I could smell the warmth. I can still smell it today. I’ve never smelled warmth like that anywhere else. I don’t know if it was the turkey, the cooking, the house or just her.
Every year I would make a lame offer to help and every year, I only broke the bread.
Then we’d watch the parade. Or rather I would watch the parade; she would listen to the parade while she single-handedly made Thanksgiving dinner.
I never said, “Why don’t you give me a bigger job? Or another job? Or let me help with the whole meal? Or TEACH ME how to make Thanksgiving dinner so that someday I can do it for it my family?”
Why didn’t I say any of those things?
If I had, I might now know how to cook a turkey. Or make stuffing. Or fill my house with the fantastic smell of welcoming. Or simply create warmth.
Instead, I only know how to break bread.
I was really sad when I wrote that. I was full of regret that was bigger than just not asking how to cook a turkey. Did I tell her that I loved her often enough? Did I tell her I loved that she served the cranberry-sauce-from-the-can-with-the-ridges even though she was the only one that liked it? Did I tell her that I appreciated all the manual labor that goes into making mashed potatoes? Did I tell her that I was thankful simply for her?
I was feeling so awful, so I did the only thing a sane person would do in that moment. I opened the box of chocolates that was supposed to be part of my brother-in-law’s Christmas present and ate
one two three all of them.
And then, I did the second thing. I reached out to someone I knew would make me feel better.
I emailed my sad, little story to someone I love and got this response:
“I’ve been reading this over and over. A couple of thoughts – how could a memory like this be sad? How awesome is it to remember a house that smelled like warmth and love? How happy would your Mom be to know this is one of your memories of her? And finally, don’t think for a minute that creating that kind of family, warmth and wonderful memories has anything to do with cooking. She taught you everything you had to know.”
I know. Here’s a tissue. I’ll give you a minute.
Take as long as you need.
I’m going to channel my inner-Chandler Bing for a minute and say, “Could there have BEEN a more perfect response?” No. I’m sure that’s why I sent my sad words. Because I just knew I would get something perfect back… something that would make me ugly cry. And then smile for a whole year.
This year, I’m so grateful for that response and the person who sent it. Because if I wake up tomorrow morning and my house doesn’t smell like turkey, I’m going to remember that it doesn’t mean I haven’t created the same kind of home and warmth that my own Mom created. And that somebody believes I can.
This year, I am also so grateful to be surrounded with such an incredible family. I’m so thankful that I still have my Dad. There’s still time to ask him to explain complicated things… like economics. I’m so thankful to have the siblings that I grew up with and the ones I met later in my life… all of whom are my closest friends – and a huge extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins who, while I don’t see them often enough, never feel far away.
This year, I’m grateful for all of my friends – my oldest friends (some of whom I’ve known my whole life), my newest friends (some of whom I feel like I’ve known my whole life), and all of the friends I’ve kept in between (back when we wrote letters instead of status updates).
This year, I am so grateful to have won the Loud One, the Nibbit and Happy Dude in the kid lottery. As the Nibbit would say, “I love you to the moon and to the stars on a rocket and to California and to the smoothie store 137 times.” (Of course I just throw the “INFINITY!” at him and that shuts him up.) It’s impossible to put into words how grateful you are to have healthy and [mostly] happy kids. I won’t try.
I’m grateful for KJ. That guy is so patient and funny and kind and he never says to me, “When are you going to STOP being such a bitch in the morning?” I cannot believe he has never said that.
Lastly, I’m so grateful for the following things that make my life a bit better on a daily basis: the iPad and Amanda (the two best babysitters in the world), Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese and Belle & Evans chicken nuggets; soldiers, doctors and baristas; Matchbox cars and books about trucks; tequila; Matt Lauer; sea salt caramels; all of my kids’ fantastic teachers and lastly, the best next-door neighbors in the whole world.
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this to sound like an Oscar speech, but once you get started, it’s hard to stop, you know? It’s so cliché to say that I have so much to be thankful for, but it’s also so damn true.
So, I leave you with this:
Tomorrow. Be thankful, of course. Be thankful for the meal, but more so for the people you’re sharing it with. Be aware that you’re literally creating memories for the people sharing your space. Make them good ones. Make them warm.
Remember those that can’t be there with you, but know they are with you in spirit.
And if your Mom is the one that makes Thanksgiving dinner, offer to do more than just break the bread.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
I’m so thankful you read this whole thing.