November 22, 2011

The Only Thanksgiving I Really Remember

Over the last few months I've spent a lot of time chewing on my mother. Not literally. You know me better than that by now.

What I mean is, I've been looking at the relationship I had with her and how she mothered and how it affected me. The strange this is, as I've pondered and written and dug into my heart and laid it all out here, I find myself able to forgive. A little. I'm still praying about all of this, but just by opening all that up to you and exposing the uglies I was battling, I'm now able to look at her and our relationship a little more objectively. The little girl in me still hurts, but the mother in me sees my mother's hurts and understands....

Anyway-as interesting as all that is, that's not what I want to write about today. I wanted to tell you about my very most favorite Thanksgiving. The one that I will never, ever forget. The one God used to give me hope and healing-I learned that day that good things can follow heartbreak.

I'm sorry-I know I keep talking about my parents' divorce. It's either that or my broken body. Please bear with me because, well, here I go again.

As you know, my parents divorced when I was 7 or 8. And as you know, until then my life had been idyllic; I knew I was loved and I always felt safe. We had a comfortable home and the holidays were packed with family, good food, and tradition. When the divorce came all that shattered. I felt like I'd been floating through life on a magic carpet and suddenly found the carpet gone. Needless to say, I was devastated.

At this point my oldest brother was living in Evergreen Colorado with his wife and two babies. I finished 3rd grade and then my mom made an announcement. We, (she and I) were moving to Evergreen to be near my brother. I absolutely hated the idea. Even though my dad was gone, we were still living in the only home I'd ever had. The one filled with safety and memories and stability.

To make a long story short, mom and I ended up living with my brother and his family for a few months. I enjoyed spending time with my baby nephews and getting to know my brother and sister-in-law, but I still missed my "old" life. I missed having a place that was home to mom and me-a place to call our own.

Then one November day, (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to be exact) my teacher handed me a note from the school office. Mom had called and wanted me to take a different bus home that day. I was to go to a place called Sunnybrook Lodge and go to Unit 9.

Sunnybrook was a small vacation spot tucked away in the mountains. There was a large main building where the owners lived, and then 9 units designed to be rented out by the day, week, or month. Each unit was a different size, but they were each laid out like a cozy little home.

I followed the note's instructions and went to Sunnybrook. I found #9 and timidly knocked on the door. To my surprise my Mom answered the door. She was smiling and happy and so excited. She'd rented #9 just for us. It was a tiny place-just big enough for a double bed, a table for 2, and a teeny tiny kitchen. There was a pumpkin pie cooling on the counter and a chicken roasting in the oven. It smelled exactly like Thanksgivings had in Illinois. Like I said, it was a small place, but it felt safe and cozy-it wasn't the home I was used to, but because of mom's attitude, it felt like home. She somehow managed to press beyond her own pain and create a loving, happy place to land that day after school. It was a holiday that wasn't filled with family or tradition but it's always been my favorite.

I saw and learned a lot about parenting that day. It doesn't matter where you live or how much money you have or how many people are there-what matters to a child is the love and stability a parent can give. I saw my mother leap over a broken heart and ignore her own fears and unstable circumstances to give to me; she wanted to create a wonderful memory for me and she did. She taught me how to look beyond circumstances and act like an adult. She showed me, by example, that being a family, and having a home and wonderful holidays are an attitude rather than a place or the traditions or the food. Because of her outlook, she was able to carve a cozy, loving holiday out of a tiny cabin and a chicken and give me a memory I will always, always treasure....

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