Thinking about the lessons I learned growing up, Thanksgiving was definitely one with mixed messages. My parents were happy to open their home to friends and family; no one without someplace to go was ever turned away. My mother glowed with happiness to be surrounded by the people she loved.
Still, the days leading up to the holiday were fraught with stress, strife, and sniping. My dad would do the shopping; my mother would complain that he bought the wrong foods or spent too much money. We spent the morning of cleaning the house in a way that was reserved for those few times a year that we had a large crowd. As a child I didn't understand why all of a sudden things had to be better than they usually were.
I was inevitably ill on Thanksgiving day, before the first guest ever arrived. How I managed to eat dinner every year I don't exactly know. I do know that there was a running bet as to what time I would make it to before I tossed my cookies. I wasn't the only one not feeling my best; my dad was the one tasked with getting cup at 5 a.m. to put the turkey in the oven (I am so glad that I use a smaller bird and faster cooking method). He was usually near to falling over by the time we'd finished dessert.
It always seemed like so much work for so little reward. The first time I hosted a big, real Thanksgiving (including turkey) I came to understand the why behind it all. My mother had passed away that October and we were gathering for the first time without her. I wanted to shower my family with love and warmth; that is where the satisfaction lies.
I find it so easy to fall into the same patterns when the holidays arrive. I understand better the desire to clean the fingerprints off the doorways and sweep the front porch; they are things that we always want to do for ourselves but rarely make the time for. I can't, however, put my children through that crazy cleaning. We did our regular cleaning Saturday, after a thorough fall cleaning three weeks ago. We have daily chores and those are all that will be done on Thanksgiving Day.
We shopped today; I made a list of every ingredient needed and formed the grocery list from that.
Tomorrow we'll work on a couple of crafts (more on that tomorrow). We'll choose our table linens and make sure that the dishes and flatware that we want to use are clean and ready to go (and likely we'll use our everyday dishes anyway).
Wednesday I begin food prep; I try to split the work between two days because I absolutely understand that it is work and that if I try to cram it all into Thursday I am the one who will be inviting stress, strife, and sniping into my home.
I have to be the one to make it simple. To mind my tongue when I feel like sniping, to do what I can to reduce the stress (for all of us), to understand that the strife does none of us any good. To change the lessons that my boys will learn as they go through life, emphasizing the warmth and love while reminding them that they are always good enough, that what we do is uniquely ours and that it is enough, whatever it is.