A Little Thanksgiving Hope

Thanksgiving has always been an odd holiday for me. I’m not sure my quaint family-of-three ever knew how to handle it — my mother’s siblings always did their own thing with their respective mates and we never traveled up North to share the feast with my dad’s side. Most of the Thanksgivings I remember centered around my mom, my dad and me — maybe my grandmother would join, but more often than not, it was just us.

We’ve always had the same things: mushy mashed potatoes that I love so much I ever-so-elegantly scoop with my fingers when no one is looking, baked mac n’ cheese, brocoli & cheese casserole, rolls, cranberry sauce from the can, rolls from another can and green beans (not the casserole, but the frozen kind). We never dressed up for it, though I insisted a few years to be a tad fancy when I was a teenager out of vanity. I never helped cook until I took up baking in high school and then I was determined to bake a mean apple pie every year. To this day, my dad requests one to be sent to him.

It’s a little too pricey to fly to North Carolina twice in a six-week period, so I spend Thanksgiving with my friend E, who hosts a pot-luck type dinner for all of the out-of-staters who stay in-city for the holiday. Sometimes we call it Tanksgiving (ahem, a lot of wine is served) or I’ve heard it called Friendsgiving, where we try to recreate those fabulous dishes our parents or aunts seemed so good at fixin’ up. It’s always a good time and usually a night that ends early, offering a mandatory sleep-a-thon until early Friday morning.

This year isn’t really different, but it sure does feel that way to me.

After getting off work early, I rushed home to turn on some Frank Sinatra and enjoy having my five-person apartment all to myself. I completely destroyed the kitchen making a mac n ‘cheese and an apple pie (of course!), then I cleaned it before going to bed, frankly just out of fear that if something happened to me, I couldn’t have anyone finding the apartment a total disaster. Everything was fine and fine was my attitude, but Ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t get me in the festive mood as he usually does. My dishes turned out great (I always take a little nibble) and I tweeted and Facebooked about looking forward to stuffing myself way past the point of being able to wear a sweater dress, but something was off.

With my hair done-up in a high bun, a glass of orange juice to keep me company and an iPhone on 20 percent battery, I sat down to write Christmas cards. After a few, I put down the pen and sighed, annoyed at my disposition and wondering what was bothering me. Do I miss my family? Do I think I should be spending it with them? Is it that I thought I’d be spending it with Mr. P and his family? Do I feel bloated from the miniature dish of macaroni I made myself? What’s wrong with me?

 Too frustrated to write sweet sentiments or to even sit down, I got up and paced my apartment, trailing my hand along the hallway, gawking at my room like it was the first time I saw it. And that’s when it hit me: nothing’s wrong, I’m not sad or upset really — I just long for a home.

The city itself feels like home, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I’ve somehow gathered an incredible group of friends that feel like my family-away-from-family. I’m so incredibly thankful that I’m one of the lucky ones who landed a job she loves and looks forward to going to everyday. I’m healthy and fit, attractive and intelligent, and mostly I’m surrounded by the positive energy of all that I’m involved in and all who love me. But it’s a funny thing living in an apartment complex with strangers you met on Craigslist that somehow turned into friends — as much as you try, it’s not like having a family or building a home.

I’m far too young to think about such things, I’m told. I shouldn’t worry about the future or the husband I’ve yet to meet, the kids I’ve yet to procreate. I have so much living and learning, exploring and traveling ahead of me, I shouldn’t want to settle my roots for years to come. I have the freedom of coming and going as I please, doing as I wish and being totally selfish with my choices, my money and my actions.

And for once, I do actually enjoy the single life — but as much as my career, New York and my fabulous friends are important to me, I sometimes wonder what my future would look like sans marriage or children. Would I finally buy a house somewhere outside of the city all on my own? Or maybe an apartment that I could decorate as I desire? Would I freeze my eggs and revisit them at a time when I was ready, even without a man? Where would I spend Thanksgiving? With my friends and their husbands, or back home with my parents? What would my life look like?

A year ago when I was writing this blog, those thoughts would have angered me. I would have convinced myself that those were negative, love-addicted notions that have no place on this space. I would have been upset that I wasn’t stronger, or even worse, I would have let those fears dominate my thinking and cried myself to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve. But this year, they’re just thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less — just ideas of what my future could or couldn’t be.

Because you know what? Being a strong woman who’s happy (and totally thankful) for her life doesn’t mean that she doesn’t crave happily ever after with a man. (Even if she’s unsure of what the “after” refers to, really.) It doesn’t mean that romantic fantasies are far-fetched or detrimental, they are just part of what we hope tomorrow brings. It doesn’t make us weak or less together or successful, it just makes aware of what we want while knowing that should that not come, we’d be fine otherwise. It doesn’t make us silly because we dream of sharing memories with a man who wants to make memories and have anniversaries, holidays with us.

The Thanksgiving memory I wish to recreate is a memory that was never mine — but something I watched on home videos of my parents. It was my second Thanksgiving and I was strapped into a booster seat, nibbling on baby corn and wearing an adorable brown and red dress (thanks Mom!), with the camera set up to get the whole dinner scene. The tape rolled for nearly an hour-and-a-half, my parents just had to capture the first Thanksgiving they thought I’d remember. I sat and watched the whole segment once, and my favorite part had nothing to do with how I giggled at my dad impersonating a turkey or my icky-face at cranberry sauce (I still make it) — but at an intimate moment not meant to be captured:

My father reached across the table and grabbed my mother’s hand as he said: “You’re so beautiful. You’ve given me the best life and a beautiful daughter. You’re the love of my life.”

So today, I’m thankful for so many things, but one of those happens to be that I have the courage to believe that one day, those words could be spoken to me.

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An Ageless Bond

Standing in the fitting room of a trendy boutique in the West Village today, staring at myself in the mirror in an overpriced $105 cotton blue dress with embellishments, I had an ache in my heart for no one other than my mother.

Considering I’ve been out of grade school for quite some time now, and the whole “back-to-school” shopping trip ceased when I hit college, every Fall, my 20-something self misses spending a few hours at the mall with my mom. She used to set a budget and then let me go at it – jeans, sweaters, leggings, bras, shoes, school supplies, and anything else I needed was up to me to pick out. She’d go around holding up things that she thought would be “cute” and the older I became, the more I went against her suggestions and went with my own.

Maybe some have mothers who want them to wear turtlenecks and long skirts that cover every possible inch of their body, but my mom was never like that. She’s actually one of the best critics – she’ll be honest about how I look and she’s queen of selecting pieces that flatter my body. She never told me to hide my curves, but to dress for them. She should know how to do that after all – she’s the one who gave them to me. While we may disagree on certain picks, I trust her the most on fit, and I value her sweet sentiments over anyone else’s.

Our Girl’s Days Out weren’t limited to pre-September though, it was always our thing to do monthly. Sometimes we’d just go bouncing around to thrift stores, try a new restaurant downtown, and once I became an adult, I started dressing her instead. Since she’s been walking or biking a few miles daily for as long as I can remember, my mom is in great shape and for a 50-something (sorry mom!), I’d say she’s pretty smokin’.

But she doesn’t always think so. And she has to be reminded that wearing tight clothes isn’t out of the question in your middle-age, that being sexy doesn’t disappear because wrinkles appear, and that she deserves new clothes too. After spending a vast majority of her life treating me to special things and taking me on shopping trips, she often forgot herself – but now it’s her time.

She started esthetician school today and I couldn’t be more proud. I waited anxiously by my cell phone for her to get out of class, wondering how her day was and if she liked her classmates. She was nervous about the transition from working to taking a chance on something she’s always been interested in. Accounting is far from waxing and beauty treatments, but with her gentle touch and fiesty entrepreneurial-spirit, I’m confident that with a degree, she’ll be unstoppable.

While I was happy for her bright, new beginning, I was sad that I wasn’t there to share it with her. To treat her to a new outfit to wear to class that flatters her style and the softness she exudes without trying. To split a bottle of wine and chat about what she liked and didn’t, and dream up what kind of salon she would open up. To just see her beaming and brave, being the woman I’ve always known was inside of her, but she was afraid to face.

It’s funny how tables turn and how eventually, we end up parenting out parents a bit. Or maybe they just become our friends because they’ve been befriending us our entire lives. And just like they have to with us or we have to with a childhood friend that can’t come along for our ride, we have to learn how to let them go. How to support their new endeavors that don’t involves us or our day-to-day lives that don’t include one another, or the goals they’re reaching that we can’t quite see. How to stand on our own and let them stand as well.

How to pick out our own clothes with our own money for the brand new job we sought and found, while they start a brand new chapter of their lives by returning to school. How mothers continue to learn just as much as daughters, and how closing your eyes and sending a hug from the big city to the sweet countryside may seem impossible, somewhere, you just know she can feel it, too.

A Sweet Longing

The last week or so, I’ve been feeling a little homesick.

While this may break my mother’s heart (I apologize in advance, Mama), I don’t miss home all that often. I’ve come to find that home is where you make it and who you make it with, so really, right now, my home is inNew York, in the company of my friends, and in the lights of the city.

But nothing really replaces your mom. Or your dad. Or the smellNorth Carolinaeludes with the arrival of summer. Or the quiet that comes from an old country road where the only noise prohibited is the sweet melody of song birds in the morning. And no matter how many years I’m away from NC or how many friends I make or how many roots I try to plant  in the pavement, holidays are tough away from the place you always spent them.

They say the mark of a successful parent is when they raise their child to be a mature, functioning, self-sufficient, and happy adult who can handle life without them. I’d say my parents have achieved this feat and I would think that all great parents want their children to turn into capable adults who create an existence that brings them joy, prosperity, and love, of course – but part of growing up is moving on.

If you’re the product of a very happy home with a supportive, loving family, and a community that encouraged success and bigger things than what sweet littleCarolinacan offer – the process of moving on means letting go of where you were to establish where you are. And it isn’t easy. I love my background but I’m confident my future has just as much possibility, if not more. But making that possibility feel just right is a process in itself.

I do consider myself an adult and I am completely independent of my parents for all of my financial needs and wants. I don’t depend on them for anything more than a daily phone call and to be there should I want to spend an outrageous amount of money flying south for a weekend. But there are times, like when I miss them that I feel like I’m less of an adult.

Maybe it is a misconception on my part to think that longing to see your family makes you more of a child and less of a grown-up, but when you travel away from home, as children should – when do you stop missing where you come from? Or not really where, but who?

I think part of the appeal of a relationship or the desire to one day get married comes from the hunger for a home. Especially if you came from a healthy and happy home – why would you not want to design the same foundation? And maybe we think by finding that sense of security or making plans for the future, we’ll stop missing what we had to leave behind to get to where we wanted to be. Maybe we think that sadness that surprises us from time-to-time will stop coming around. Maybe we think by finding love, the love of our childhood home won’t be something we wish we could capture and carry around with us, should a day ever be nothing but doom-and-gloom.

I’m not there yet, so I can’t argue effectively, but I know that nothing compares to my mother’s embrace or the smell of her perfume that lingers on you after. Or my father’s infectious laugher that burns his face and fills in the lines of his wrinkled cheeks. You can’t capture the same smells of bacon and eggs in the morning paired with instant-coffee, or the sound of the washing machine constantly running while my dog scratches at my bedroom door.

And not being able to see your parents on Easter or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day – because it isn’t sensible to fork over $300 in such a short period of time, just sucks. Or knowing the baby cousins you left will only see you once or twice a year, meaning you won’t watch them grow, is sad. Or that you only get to hug your family for a week at a time, maybe twice or three times a year, hurts.

There really is no place like home, no matter how sweet your new one is.