Spending Thanksgiving at home with the family
Holidays mean leisure time for everyone except Mom. I had no idea how much my own mother did to make the holidays special until I was in charge of making them happen. Now I know why she and my grandmother were always so tired during the holiday season.
We had a beautiful Thanksgiving last week. For the first time in years, both my sisters’ and my parents’ schedules allowed us to spend the day together. My grandmother felt well enough to join us, too. We had such a good time.
Everyone contributed a bit here and there, but the bulk of the planning, cooking and cleaning fell on me. Last Wednesday, I baked cornbread and biscuits for my home- made dressing, prepared two kinds of cranberry sauce, assembled a casserole, cooked lunch for everyone, hard-boiled a dozen eggs, brewed a gallon of iced tea, and made a dessert to accompany the carry-out pizza we shared with our guests that night.
That was just the kitchen prep. In my spare time, I home schooled the kids. I helped Donnie hang a few pictures and install our new mantel. Then I decorated it, the sideboard and the table with fall candles and leaves, did two loads of dishes, one load of laundry, and cleaned the bathrooms. I lived in the kitchen Thursday, orchestrating the production of each dish with the precision of a military general. Thanksgiving dinner was ready at 5 p.m., as I’d planned, and was flawless.
After a couple of hours around the table, the men sank into the recliners to watch the Falcons lose to the Colts while the women cleared the dishes and put the leftovers away. Around midnight, after the men and the kids were in bed, my sisters watched TV while I finished washing the last of the dishes.
I was hoping that at some point that evening, someone would volunteer to do the dishes. But the offers never came and I’d have felt like the Grinch if I’d asked anyone to do them. I wanted to wake up to a clean kitchen, and the easiest path to that goal was to tap the last of my energy reserves and just do it myself.
As I crammed the roasting pan into the dishwasher, I felt annoyed by the lack of help—especially since I had worked my tail off to make it a fun, successful day.
I don’t mean to sound like a martyr—though Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word does apply to mothers at the holidays. I can’t be the only mom who has ever felt like, “a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle.”
The principle is doing all we can to make the holidays a storybook experience for our families, and our sacrifice is every other area of life we give up to make it happen.
It’s a gift and a privilege to have a family to take care of, and I wouldn’t trade mine for anything. I truly enjoy party planning and all the cooking and decorating that goes along with it. My family knows this, so I think they assume that I also enjoy all the accompanying grunt work. I don’t.
Before I had kids, I would sit idly by at the holidays and let the moms work their magic. They made preparing a feast look easy, so I assumed it was. Clearly, I had no idea.
I was clueless about so many things in those carefree, child-free days. I didn’t know how motherhood trains a woman to just roll up her sleeves and efficiently accomplish what has to be done. How motherhood redefines the concept of tired so that “exhausted”, “drained” and every other weary word in the dictionary is insufficient to describe it.
I couldn’t have known how a mother’s love enables her to extend beyond her natural abilities to give her children what they need. How our adoration of their smiles makes us willing—with joy, even—to martyr ourselves just to witness those wide grins on a special day.
Still, we Moms are only human. We won’t turn you down if you offer to do the dishes.