This is a time of year for celebration. In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving and the harvest of the land that allowed us to survive in a new place. We celebrate the food on the table. We celebrate the football that is played. We celebrate the people who are around us and important to us. We celebrate the beginning of the holiday shopping madness. We celebrate.
Many families have different traditions, some that have been around forever and some that are new each year. Some, in years past, would attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or be sure to watch it on television. Some, in years past, travel to family in other states. Some, in years past, hosted large gatherings of cousins and family. Some, in years past, have helped those in shelters and less fortunate enjoy their holiday with a home cooked meal and camaraderie. Some eat Turkey. Some eat Ham. Some have mashed potatoes and some have sweet potatoes.
This has always been my favorite day of the year. It has been about family, food and fun for me. Growing up, it was always the Domenick’s and the Trope’s having dinner together in one of our houses, 3 doors away from each other. It was a day that we all loved. We would have the big meal in the afternoon together, usually the 8 of us plus Grandma. The extended family of both my dad and Uncle Tony would come that evening for turkey sandwiches and fun and dessert! It was the best day of the year.
As we grew up and each got married, we began to move the event from house to house so we each had an opportunity to host the day. We began to have children of our own and they were part of the celebration. We never grew out of the Italian tradition of ravioli before dinner. We did finally grow out of the turkey sandwiches at night though!
I began to host this day in 2004 and have done it since then. It is the best day of the year in my house. I have had gratitude letters that I have given out, I have had notecards for everyone to share what they are grateful for, I have had big days with 30 plus people and smaller years of 20. I am always grateful for the love of the family around me and usually stand with glistening eyes at some point, just watching all the people I love talking to each other, laughing with each other and enjoying the family we have created.
Over the years we have lost members of the family and that void is never filled. This year the void was the largest as we all remained in our own homes to keep everyone safe. For the first time in 16 years, I didn’t order a fresh turkey. I didn’t food shop. I didn’t spend time cooking and setting up the house. All things I love to do and all things I had a year off of doing.
We had our zoom call where most of the family joined so that we could see each other, reminisce a bit and catch up a bit. Although it was nice, it didn’t do anything to really squelch the longing in my heart to be together as a family. Everyone around me has a family of their own. They have parents or children. They have a nuclear family that they were able to share their day with. I do not. I have no nuclear family, I am alone. That isn’t to make anyone sad, that is a fact. I could have gone to other’s homes, I was invited. I chose not to. I chose to stay home in isolation on my favorite day of the year.
Part of me felt isolated. Part of me felt grateful for the opportunity to be alone. Part of me had moments of pure sadness at my lonely existence and part of me relished the fact that I have nobody to answer to but me. That is the conundrum of being alone at this point in your life. Part of you enjoys it and part of you does not. When my second marriage ended, one person said to me, “you must be hard to live with.” That stuck with me for a very long time. Perhaps I was hard to live with at that time, I was shattered and in the depths of depression that I know partially caused the break up. The break up was also caused by my ex-husband’s inability to be the person he tried to be, he was broken as well. Yet this person laid it on me.
Now, I don’t know if I would be hard to live with or not, but I do know that I have healed so much of me that I am different today. I no longer judge myself as harshly as this person once did. I no longer look to be whole by being with someone else. I don’t expect anyone to be there for me, I am there for me.
As I sat alone on Thanksgiving, my heart was filled with sadness and joy. Sadness of not having either of my parents any longer, sadness for the virus to keep my family apart and sadness for the loss of life that we have experienced. Joy for the fullness of my heart. Joy for the people who I know love me and surround me. Joy for the place I am at and the health of my soul and being. Joy for where the next steps will take me.
Gratitude is there no matter what is happening in my life. Gratitude is there whether I am surrounded by those I love, watching them play, argue about football or laugh as they reminisce or gratitude as sat with a roaring fire, a glass of champagne, a dog who snuggled on one side and a cat who snuggled on the other.
Gratitude is there, with others or in isolation.