For years, my ex-husband got the kids on Thanksgiving. The divorce specified that we alternate, but when I went to graduate school my ex-husband graciously planned his vacations according to my schedule for two years. I had no grounds to insist on alternating.
Now that I graduated, we have returned to our normal every-other-year Thanksgiving, and for the first time in a while, I have the boys. We chose not to make a pilgrimage anywhere. Instead, it is just the four of us (two boys, one mama, and one quasi-stepfather) at our cabin in the woods.
The cat cried the entire drive here, but no one threw up or spilled goldfish crackers in the car, so I’m counting that as a win. The forecast was for rain every day, but so far my magical insistance that it won't rain is working.
When the boys have Thanksgiving with their father, there play with 8,000 cousins, perform a Thanksgiving play, and get to watch football all day long. For dinner, I think they eat bread. Oh, I’m sure that my ex-husband’s aunts make plenty of food, but I know my kids. Maybe they will consume one kernel of corn. French silk pie is acceptable only if it was made by Baker’s Square. The eight-year-old might lick a piece of ham, and the eleven-year-old occasionally eats turkey, but only if the planets are in alignment. Bread, though, is a sure thing.
The truth is, I can’t replicate the experience my kids have at their father’s. I don't watch football, I didn't write a play, and I'm not providing any cousins today. Luckily, though, it’s not a competition. Oh, don’t get me wrong, as a parent, it feels like a competition, but to a child, it’s just Mama’s turn to have Thanksgiving. I don’t have to win. I don’t have to do anything the way their father does it or even the way my mother did it. Kids don’t keep score the way grownups do.
Last night they learned to play cards, using roofing nails instead of poker chips. Today they built a fire outside and had s’mores and a snowball fight. We are making turkey and ham and side dishes and of course, bread. We are forgoing pie in favor of spice cake, because I am a grown up and I can make my own rules and I like cake better.
It’s possible that the cat is experiencing demonic possession, or maybe is just trying to communicate with the mother ship, but he hasn’t teleported yet.
And we learned never to underestimate the fun that can be had with a rubber monkey mask.
The dog? He still smells. But he'd smell whether it was Thanskgiving or not.
So Happy Thanksgiving, and celebrate in any way you want, with anyone you choose. If you are a single parent, remember you get to make the rules, and you no longer have to be nice to your ex-in-laws unless you want to. And that’s a win in my book.
Copyright © 2023 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com