And then there were the family gatherings. Included the ones in my mind, ones that had or might have happened, and visions of ones to come. In one scene in my memories, my exhusband's mother is teaching me how to make her version of banana nut bread, a favorite holiday treat for this first son of hers. She is a little exasperated at the fact that I had never learned to bake from scratch, a skill she feels like every woman should have. She considers it her responsibility to pass this on. Every year after that, when he was apart from his mother, I made banana nut bread for him until it became habit.
This Thanksgiving, there were three family gatherings, two at my parents, one at his. On one of these, I had wandered into my parent's study. My mother had been reorganizing and there were boxes everywhere. Curious, I peeked in one. Thre were some empty photo frames, and some loose photos. I picked up a stack to flip through, see if there were any pictures from my youth. No such luck. They were all pictures from my wedding, eleven years ago this summer. I tried to look into my own eyes from back then, to see if they showed any hint of knowledge of what was to come, but all I saw was the fresh face of youth.
Before this family gathering, I had stopped by my exhusband's house to pick up the children. I handed him a foil wrapped loaf of fresh baked banana nut bread, his mother's recipe. I told him I know he had wanted to be with his mother this Thanksgiving, and this was as close as I could get for him. I don't have any residual emotion for him, but it felt like making peace with this past, a little nod to the past and a little gratitude for him letting me go, to go be happy.
And I am happy. Never been happier. And I am thankful for that. I think about that as I hold the hand of my man on a stroll down a wooded trail, of just how appreciative I am of this, this moment, all of this. I am thankful for the love of the man beside me. I am thankful my ex has given me some time away from the children, the three breaks I have gotten...one in June, one in August, one in the now. These moments are restoring my sanity. I am thankful for my family, and those little shining moments that make life worth it. I'm so thankful to God for taking care of me, of showing me the way, for giving me hope, peace, joy, love: the gifts of the holiday season.