Sunday, November 30, 2008

Laundry Room Visitations and Pumpkin Bombings; Just Your Typical Thanksgiving

Howdy! Long time no post. I've been busy getting ready to have 24 people over for Thanksgiving, then I've been busy actually having 24 people over for Thanksgiving, then I've been busy recovering from having 24 people over for Thanksgiving....

GREAT Thanksgiving, though! Thanksgiving is pretty much my favorite holiday (oh no - we watched Napoleon Dynamite and now I'm saying "pretty much my favorite" again). I think I say that about every holiday but this time it is true. For real. Thanksgiving for me is a time of heightened consciousness. Not in a nirvana sort of way - in an awareness sort of way. Befuddled? ("Befuddled" is pretty much my favorite word next to "titillating".)

Here's an example of my Thanksgiving awareness. On the morning of Thanksgiving I found myself doing one of my Why-Do-I-Always-Do-This-At-The-Last-Minute holiday chores - ironing the table cloths.

a) My laundry room is ridiculously small and I am still angry at the architect who added on to our house about this...
b) My laundry room is full of laundry. Totally full. There are baskets on the floor, clothes on top of the washer and dryer, and clothes on top of the ridiculously small folding counter that has to be ridiculously small due to the ridiculously small size of the room.
c) I have a ridiculously small mini-ironing board that folds out of the wall from inside a mounted cabinet.
d) The mini-ironing board was installed by my husband.
e) It was installed crookedly.
f) The door of the cabinet whacks me in the left elbow the entire time I iron, since it is ahem...hanging crooked.
g) Ironing sucks.

As I manipulated the extra-large table cloths on top of the extra-small ironing board with the door whacking me in the left elbow, I was fortunate to have been visited by a couple of holiday spirits. First was my mom. She is pretty much my favorite dead person. Her visit was instigated by a simple thing: spots.

All of my table cloths are extremely stained and spotted. My mom hated spots. Hated Them. She was shaking her head and frowning at those spots. I was glad to see her. She was, of course, dressed for Thanksgiving the way she always was - a nice sweater and skirt, pretty shoes. One look and I knew she had her turkey in the lower oven and her stuffing in the upper. Her stuffing was freshly mixed since she had been up since 5:00 am. If you don't bake it the day it is mixed it becomes dry (which is why my stuffing is always dry).

So like I said, she was frowning at the spots on my table cloth. She would have attacked those spots with things like toothbrushes, Q-tips, and various concoctions that required rubber gloves. She would have been fussing about it but thoroughly enjoying herself. And the spots would have been treated immediately. They wouldn't have made it into the washing machine and then the dryer. A hot iron would never have run over them. "I know," I silently told her. "I'm a little bit busier than you were, Mom. I've got 5 kids that I homeschool, you know."

"Of course I know that," she said. "Of course, I also know the spots would be there regardless."

What can I say? It's not like she just met me.

No judgement, though. Judgement - definitely not one of her faults. We didn't speak of the unspoken things. We didn't speak about how she didn't live long enough to see Jasper being born, or to have been of sound mind when Camille was born, or to have been well enough to have enjoyed Jules. About how Dad is having to try and be happy on holidays without her. We know not to get into these things. We just smiled and remembered happy times, of which we are blessed with many. Unspoken things, however, have a way of being heard, anyway. Especially in conversations with the dead. So darnit, soon there were more spots on the table cloth. Now my mom and I were both crying in the ridiculously small laundry room. And this made us laugh. One of my mom's few faults was being moved to tears easily and often. This usually ended in laughter over the ridiculousness of the whole thing. And that was when we were both alive. Moments like this, you know, where she isn't really there...are somehow, even funnier.

She exited as I folded up her somewhat ironed, spotted table cloth. Two more to iron. Next up was another gold table cloth; this one belonging to Jeff's mom. This one, also spotted. I got to it. And there was Pauline. She wasn't frowning at the spots. They had been there a long time. Like me, Pauline often didn't have time to worry with things like spots. She didn't linger long. She wouldn't have recognized the laundry room - it wasn't there when she raised her family in the house. I knew that she moved on to the kitchen - her domain - where she lovingly followed her son around as he puttered around slicing yams, checking on his turkey, getting ready to make the gravy. I imagine she glanced over his shoulder in her no-nonsense way, watching the proceedings to make sure he was doing everything right. She didn't cry any tears as it wasn't her way to waste tears on much of anything; certainly not on anything happy. But I know her heart swelled as she watched her son who is like her in so many ways, and who is such a wonderful husband and father. She comes around quite often, especially in the kitchen, but she had other places to visit this holiday. I imagine she was off to her daughter's house next, where most of her children and grandchildren would be gathering, later.

Finally, I attempted to smooth out the last spotted table cloth. This table cloth conjured no spirits. This table cloth was mine. It was my turn to be the only mama in the laundry room. And I began thinking about my children. About how much I love them. About how proud they make me. About how I can't imagine my life without them. And that made me think about Jules. I've always loved my children. But I haven't always loved them desperately. But trying to understand the words being spoken by a doctor as he calmly explained that my son had a brain tumor - that experience has been nicked into my mothering armor. Desperate. A new word, that one. Knowing that Jules is lucky and that this experience merely brought us to the brink of the edge, and did not push us over, has made me thankful and grateful beyond measure. Truly beyond measure. Words do not do justice...

And then, with the increased awareness of my blessings or luck or whatever you want to call it, came an increased awareness of the suffering of others. I can't think about Jules without thinking of the parents who looked over the edge and then fell...who didn't hear the words "operable" or "benign".

Parent. What a joyful and totally vulnerable word. How many people are painfully parenting this holiday season? How many are unable to provide warmth and security for their children? Or food? I am aware of the families panicking this holiday season because of lost jobs, decreased wages, foreclosed homes....I was a bundle of mixed emotions when I folded that last table cloth. I was grateful, happy, and sorrowful all at the same time. All because of some spotted table cloths.

I emerged to a living room of kids putting tables together and making place cards. And it was looking at the place cards that made the sorrow disappear. It was the names. Yes, my mom is gone. My dad is with us and we're lucky enough to see him several times a week. The same with my sister. We are blessed to be able to see my brother, whose health has improved since this time last year. Yes, there are hungry people. I looked at my friend Janet's place card and remembered how she works with the poor and feeds the hungry. Yes, there are atrocities and parentless children. I looked at Ellie's place card, and Susan's and Galen's place cards, and proudly thought of the work they do to promote peace, tolerance, and an end to genocide. Suddenly, there were only two feelings left for me: Hope and Thankfulness. Perfect for Thanksgiving. I was ready to greet the guests.

All of the kids had friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. What fun! So we had a lot of kids and teens. We had two people who were unfamiliar with Thanksgiving because they are from other countries. This provided us with a great opportunity to talk about the first Thanksgiving in an honest and open way.

We began our meal by lighting 3 candles: 1 candle in solidarity with the Native Americans who hold a vigil in Massachusetts to mourn a lost culture, 1 candle in hope that together we will build a tolerant and loving society, and 1 in Thanksgiving for all that our hearts brought to the table. Next, we all took a few dried kernels of corn to remind us of the starvation winter that took the lives of half the pilgrims, and to remind us that there are hungry people in our midst today. Finally, we took turns reading an Iroquois prayer. Joel touchingly read his part in the voice of Yoda of Star Wars, because sometimes my rituals and ceremonies apparently need some comic relief. Camille yelled "Amen!" and the stampede to the buffet began. We had turkey (duh), cornbread stuffing, corn pudding, broccoli slaw salad, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, asparagus casserole, two different versions of sweet potatoes, gravy, and homemade rolls. The marinated carrots I made were left in the refrigerator (just like last year) forgotten, until after the meal was over. We knocked down more than a few bottles of wine and sparkling juice before hitting the homemade pecan and pumpkin pies.

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving with the Perilous Pumpkin Pushover so we hopped in our cars with our pumpkins and headed to the bridge over the San Antonio river. We bombed the river after a "Ready, Set, Push!" with the big orange bombs, creating a large and rewarding wave of splashes before running to the other side of the bridge to watch them lazily bob downstream...

All in all, a picture perfect Thanksgiving, of which I have no pictures :). Maybe a reader or two will send a picture of the Pushover?

Happy Thanksgiving from a Stuffed Sardine Mama :)


  1. that was so cool! i almost (keep that word in mind: almost) cried when you were talking about the tablecloths and your mom. really beautiful. :)

    i so wish i could have gone and had some of Mr. Tokar's cranberry sauce! he did make it this year, right? :)

    a really full house, but it sounds like it was a lot of fun.

    p.s. my security word is "cruthomm". weird. :P

  2. I love your writing style!
    If I had any ghosts visit me this year, I was too busy to notice.
    And that's actually a little sad...

  3. Thanks girls! And yes, Juliana, he made cranberry sauce. I am freezing some and will give it to you.

    Hmmm...I wonder what your security word means? I always consider security words to be signs. I have been offended by more than a few.

  4. desperately love - that is the right word. beautiful post!

  5. yay! i'm psyched about the cranberry sauce! :D

    yeah, those things are weird sometimes. i think that was the first one that actually made some kind of sense to me. :P
    and the one for this post is "rebstsp". o.O

  6. ok i just HAD to put this word on!
    are you ready? GEALLY!!!!! hahaha it made me laugh!! :D

  7. you didn't post about me and Joel's annual see who can eat the most contest!

  8. Sounds like a great Thanksgiving! :-D

    haha, you know how when you're about to type something, you hit the first letter and things you've typed recently come up? My computer is doing that with security words. XD