My daughter called it “fake Thanksgiving”, and in doing so, touched on the one constant fear I have had about all of my post-divorce holidays.
When I was a child, family holidays approximated the typical dysfunctional dark comedy -and I was comfortable with that – but I really wanted that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, the one depicted in the painting entitled, “Freedom From Want”. And especially when I started my own family. But fast forward to the demise of my marriage – in which my spouse actually moved out the day after Thanksgiving – and I knew that there would be no chance of any future picture perfect nuclear family holidays. And as a divorced mother with no family nearby, I was on my own to produce the entire mise en scene – the food, the coziness of a good dinner and the simmering psychodrama, none of which I had completely mastered (especially my stuffing – which is more like stale bread served with sausage bits). And in my mind, I was competing not only with my own childhood desires, but also with my ex-husband’s family Thanksgiving gathering which my children attended each year – and Aunt so-and-so’s amazing stuffing. So naturally, I’ve always scrambled to put together something “special” – even if it meant staying up all night to cook every last scrap of food to be consumed and inviting clusters of total strangers to create a chatty crowd around the table. Plus my own fatigue swirled with teenage hormones virtually guaranteed a side of deep melodrama as well.
And yet, it never seemed quite right. Not quite “real” – and definitely not sustainable for a working woman who didn’t get enough sleep on a regular day. I tried to create “traditions” for our new tiny family unit through sheer force of will and ingenuity, ideas cobbled together from my imagination – making everyone write about gratitude on slips of paper for a few years (i still have all those slips of paper, by year, in a notebook in our library) and hanging candles from the tree limbs out front (which I still love and still do now) — so while it had never come close, it was definitely the best I could make up, and I was mostly okay with that. So it caught me off guard and hurt me deeply to hear my daughter call it “fake” this year — I know she says it from a place of pain and anger herself – but I wanted her to keep pretending with me – or to even just be okay with it and its oddness.
Maybe she will. Maybe she won’t. But it’s all I have, and I think it’s pretty good.
Though I know she probably longs for that Norman Rockwell holiday, too.