On the first leg of a recent holiday road trip, we had come into the town where I went to college. We stopped for dinner there and he teased me about not seeming to know my way around, but the place had changed so much my bearings were off. I kept looking around expecting to see something I recognized, but in the end I only had a short span of memories sifted through before I grew weary of it. I smiled at the telling of a story of a Thanksgiving past, when I brought a couple of friends from school home with me. One had joked that my mom was fattening us up for slaughter, and my roommate had succumbed to a tryptophan-induced nap in the hallway by the door. All afternoon we had to be careful not to hit her head, and it seems funny to me now.On the way back from our rip, we had a bit of an adventure, having gotten a little lost on the map and in conversation. There was a late night, and then a workday, and then I was side by side with my companion for several days. It was a time for turkey and transitions. Some moving of large furniture occured. It seemed to cleave like bookends our shared pasts, one year or more removed from each other.
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.