The Meaning of Thanksgiving
(AKA What a Crappy Thanksgiving!)
I understand the basic meaning of Thanksgiving as a holiday. I can appreciate the idea behind a holiday which forces you to give thanks to everything beautiful and wonderful you have in life, and I can think of a million things for which I am thankful for!
However, this past Thanksgiving holiday was NOT one of them.
But let’s back up a little, to the beginning of the story. Wednesday. No, earlier. Monday. Well, ok, even a little earlier than that – Thursday.
The Thursday Before Thanksgiving
The Thursday before Thanksgiving I had an abdominal ultrasound. Now don’t get ahead of yourselves here, I know what you’re thinking! And the answer is no. There are no more babies on the way. Seriously.
The ultrasound was actually looking at my pancreas and gallbladder, due to an increasing amount of discomfort and pain I’ve had for about 7 months now. So far all my tests have come back negative, so I figured this one would, too.
Well, I was right and I was wrong. No gallstones, no problems with my pancreas or gallbladder. But that isn’t all they checked. Turns out, when you go for a general abdominal ultrasound, they check all your internal organs.
The Monday Before Thanksgiving
Now fast-forward to Monday. I called my doctor for the results of the test. I received a call back about an hour later letting me know that they did find something: a lesion in my liver – could be benign, but they aren’t sure. I needed to schedule an MRI.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words ‘could be benign’ I immediately think, ‘could be malignant’. So I did what every rational woman with no family history of liver cancer and no other clues of cancer does – I cried. I called my husband and cried. I called my parents and cried. I texted my sister in England. I What’s Apped my best friend in Israel. And I spent the day on the couch engulfing every iota of data on liver lesions I could find on our old friend the World Wide Web. And cried.
The MRI was scheduled for the following Monday. One week to wait.
The Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
So now we are on the day before Thanksgiving. I had decided, in my infinite wisdom (yeah, remember I said that when you’re reading the end of this post), that we shouldn’t spend all the time and effort making dinner for our dismembered family (now that’s an even longer story I’m not going to even touch right now) as we usually do. No, this year, I decided we’ll just go out. We invited my mom, and she declined (with age comes true wisdom), so I made reservations for the five of us to go to one of our favorite local restaurants for a fully-prepared Thanksgiving feast. At the last minute, my father and his girlfriend decided to join us. Splendid, I thought to myself. An easy breazy Thanksgiving meal with family!
That night, I got a whiff of what was to come. O, our two year old, was coughing and crying all night. In fact, I finally had to take her into the guest bedroom and sleep with her, just to calm her enough to sleep. Of course, I couldn’t sleep all night with a coughing, kicking, snoring, crying, moving child. A lot of parents love sleeping next to their children – I am not one of them.
And of course, while I had mostly calmed myself down about the very brief conversation I had had with my doctor two days earlier, well, in those dark hours of the night as I lay kicked and snored awake all night, what else could I possibly think of…?
Thursday – Thanksgiving Day
My husband runs a business and generally has to work on all holidays. This was no exception. (Hence, the not wanting to make dinner, alone, with three kids at home… kind of makes sense now, right?) So I was home alone with a 2, 3 and 5 year old, on zero sleep, and I knew that O wasn’t feeling well. What else could I do? I went to my mother’s house.
We actually had a great morning playing in the play room she has set up for us and playing with her dogs and birds and eating snacks and lunch. Things were looking up.
Then I got home to find my husband had pulled something in his back and was basically stuck at horizontal. Things were looking down again.
Then, after O woke up from her nap that afternoon, things were looking much further down yet. She had a 103.2 fever. She couldn’t stop crying. We finally got her to take Tylenol and she seemed…okay… no fever, kind of whiny, but… okay.
It was 4:45pm. We were supposed to meet at the restaurant at 5:30. I called my dad and his girlfriend. He was in good spirits, she had pulled a tendon in her foot. They both said, we could cancel if we wanted.
I looked at my husband’s crooked back, at my daughter’s glazed over eyes, at my other kids’ burning energy from having been indoors all day, and made the only decision I could:
“Let’s go out! It’ll be fine. We can always leave early if we want!”
I have no idea what I was thinking. Why did I think that would be the better choice? Who freaking knows.
So we went.
As soon as we got there, we realized it was a mistake. The kids were over-hungry (I hadn’t thought to give them a snack in the afternoon, as I was thinking only about O’s health), O was crying constantly, and the restaurant was very busy and seemingly understaffed.
I think it took half an hour to get water. Another half an hour to get bread. The kids didn’t like anything on the fixed menu.
Being the amazing mother that I am (haha), I brought a bag full of fun things for the kids to do, thinking that would occupy their little hands and minds and bodies, while we adults had a delicious uneventful meal. I’ll take it out of parentheses now: ha ha.
See, normally, when we go out (which is rare), I don’t bring anything for the kids. So I thought having some special treats would induce good behavior. Feeling all clever and wonderful, I pulled out stickers and magnetic boards and coloring pages and markers and ‘I Spy’ books. I even let O play an educational app on my phone (she’s NEVER allowed to touch my phone, and even the older kids are only allowed to play with it in dire circumstances such as plane trips or 60+ minute waits at the doctor’s office).
The kids made a mess, fought over everything, threw things about and generally, well, acted as I should have known they would.
In addition, the food sucked and the service sucked.
But none of that was the problem. You see, the real problem came about just as we were leaving. But let me give you a little background information before I continue.
From before we sat down, there were two woman sat next to us, one of whom could not have disguised her displeasure from being near our kids any less.
So back to the end of our two hours of horror when we were finally able to get our bill and get the hell out of that place… and suddenly the scowling woman (whom I will call ‘Horrible Old Bitch’, or HOB for short) actually spoke up.
I’ll paraphrase the conversation:
HOB: You shouldn’t bring kids to an adult restaurant.
In my head: This is Thanksgiving and this is a family-friendly restaurant. Sorry you don’t have family to spend it with, but don’t take that out on me!
What I actually said: I’m sorry, am I not allowed to spend Thanksgiving with my family?
HOB: You should discipline your kids instead of giving them gifts for misbehavior.
In my head: I see you have no children with you, and you probably don’t have children, so you’re teaching me how to raise my kids? Or do you have children and they just don’t want to be with you on Thanksgiving? Either way…
I suppose you were beat as a child, is that how I’m supposed to discipline them?
What I actually said: I’m sorry, I thought with three children, ten years’ educational experience and a Master’s Degree in Education, that I had some idea of how to raise my kids.
HOB: You obviously went to the wrong school. And I bet you’ll be putting your kids on drugs soon, too!
In my head: I’m sorry that my alma matter, University of California, Berkeley, recently ranked as the 3rd top university in the world, isn’t good enough for you. And drugs? WTF? YOU must be on drugs you crazy bitch!
What I actually said: Thank you for teaching me an important lesson tonight.
I grabbed the kids and ran out the door to the car, before I punched her.
Little did I know that my husband was gathering our belongings, when the HOB decided to further the conversation in great Thanksgiving spirits by telling him to ‘Go back to the country [he] came from.’
Now, my husband is no subtle man. He has also suffered discrimination his whole life, having grown up a practicing Jew in Europe. So I’m actually kind of surprised that he didn’t punch her. I have no idea what he actually said, but suffice it to say, the restaurant staff apologized to us for the woman’s rudeness and even took some of the food off the bill.
The rest of the night, my husband and I could not shake the events of the evening. He for feeling persecuted once again for his religion (despite, ironically, that the woman herself was Jewish, and that her companion was Hispanic with an accent that insinuated she was not American herself), and me for being judged as a bad mother (despite her not having a family and seemingly not knowing what the hell she was talking about).
Neither of us should have cared what some lonely, ignorant woman had to say. But we were both boiling with disgust and anger nonetheless.
It took me a long time to figure out what really bothered me about that night. I’m usually quite good at ignoring people like that who probably have a lot of sadness and anger and ignorance they have to live with, and so take it out on everyone around them.
Finally I realized what it was that was bothering me so much. I did feel like a bad mom. I took my poor, sick child out for the sake of ‘a nice family meal’. I forced my husband and my dad’s girlfriend to join who were suffering as well. I expected my 3 and 5 year olds to behave in a difficult situation – when they were hungry, had very little area to move around in, had no food that they liked – and expected them to be won over with prizes.
Not to mention that we had completely missed the meaning of Thanksgiving… We had focused the entire night on the things we disliked and that made us angry, and didn’t spend even five minutes enjoying one another’s companies or appreciating any of the millions of other things that we are thankful for.
I wasn’t actually mad at the HOB (OK, well, I was, but that wasn’t it entirely).
I was mad at myself.
That night, apart from worrying incessantly about O’s health and what I might have done to make it worse, a tiny seed that had been planted in my brain days earlier, began to sprout and spread its own worrying tendrils: this could be the last Thanksgiving I spend with my family.
The Monday After Thanksgiving
Today is Monday. Tonight I have the MRI. I suspect I either get the ‘all clear’ phone call tomorrow, or I the ominous ‘please-come-in-to-see-me-tomorrow’ call.
Again, I don’t fit the profile, and I’m sure everything will be fine. But that’s kind of what everyone thinks, right? But some people do get sick. A lot of people. Out of the blue, and suddenly.
I have at least one million things to be thankful for in my life right now, but if and when this little nagging new worry gets put away for good, I will really focus on that million and first point – good health and a long future to love and enjoy my family.
And next year I won’t be so damn lazy, and I’ll just made dinner at home!