Family life

“Momma, How Do You Spell H-A-P-P-Y?”

One attempt at our Christmas photo, but I prefer to use this for my Thanksgiving note of gratitude…also not a booger coming from Carver’s nose, rather a nice sleety snowflake…

From our family to yours, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  May your family be gathered close by to pass the peas to, to argue with over politics or sexual harassment accusations,  or to make funny dance moves with over FaceTime like we did with Auntie Allison tonight in England.

“But how do you spell ‘Happy’ again, Momma?” at the start of her ‘Happy Thanksgiving Banner’ for tomorrow’s dinner at her grandmother’s house.

“And,” her brother adds, “it’s important that we all wear our origami hats I made and labeled special for Thanksgiving.” I did not realize Thanksgiving was a hat wearing kind of holiday, but this is an add on tradition apparently.

There are always kids at school who want to share family traditions– a favorite board game played or yummy side dish consumed;  or what they are excited about in the days ahead– whether that be trips to Grandma’s in Vermont or Uncle Jimmy’s in Rhode Island.  But we also are sensitive to those kids for whom holidays just mean added stress depending on which parent they are visiting or if so and so will show up and start an argument or if their mom or Aunt Barbara decides to drink too much.

I share with my students how Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday mostly because of time spent with family and friends, trips to Maine for my mom’s family  or Philadelphia for my dad’s.  And how in college, coming home for Thanksgiving was just the best time to reconnect with high school friends in any local gathering place.  This week former students trickled in during lunchtime to talk about the highs and lows of freshmen or sophomore dorm living, and I love that they come back to share.

Now for me, Thanksgiving is attempting some baked good with our own children, spinning records on the victrola (which is Geoff’s musical pastime), hiking in the woods with Aunties Cathy and Jill and their doggies Thanksgiving morning so we can eat inordinate amounts of turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie in the afternoon at one of our mom’s homes.  We are very lucky our parents like to hang out together; this means we don’t have to the the every other holiday parent swap.

“Mom, how do you spell H-A-P-P-Y?” She asks again, and I am too tired to have her sound it out on her own.

“H.A.P.P.Y.  Happy,” I repeat.

Happy is sitting down to a kitchen table with BOTH sets of our parents, even if we had to practically wrestle one another to get the extension leaves in.

Happy is spelled with calls to Auntie and Uncle in London along with Auntie and Uncle and cousins on the Cape.  Carver appreciates his family and snow.  Greta is thankful for her friends and learning to read.  Hazel is grateful for her trampoline and her big sister, and Ella is grateful for family dinners and reading in her room.

Happy is overhearing your kids talk at bedtime about how much they love Ella and Hazel and can’t wait for them to visit after Christmas to go skiing and sledding and build snowmen.

Happy is taking a long walk in the woods when we imagine our life when Geoff’s service dog arrives.

Happy is finishing a short work week with ten of my students choosing to participate in our Annual Rotary Speech Contest.  They share vulnerable parts their lives along with the less than ideal elements of adolescence with their entire middle high school student body.

Happy is helping a dear friend move out of her house and marriage and laughing a lot beneath mattresses, bureaus, and armoires despite the weight of her sadness.

Happy is handprint turkeys and stuffed paper bag turkeys and, oh, not to forget, origami turkeys.

Happy is hearing another mom tell me I’m on her list of things to be grateful for.

Happy is sharing a meal between the pilgrims and the Native Americans and among the dearest of friends and neighbors who live here in our mountains.

Happy is watching your daughter ride a horse for the first time and your son yell, “Who-hoo,” as he takes his first ski runs of the winter.

Happy is reading articles which lift us up and give hope or make us smile after learning about the teenager from Milton,NH who died tragically in a car accident, or the one from Memorial High School who was shot in the hardware store right near my hometown, or the little boy with cancer who understood he would die before today, and all he wished for were Christmas cards.

Happy is remembering the good in our world and our human resilience, the neighbors stepping in when needed and the food pantry filling in the nick of time, when the world conspires against you– when drugs steal your students’ parents, or when boyfriends cause moms to move towns, and you can’t hold onto them or tie them to the desk in your classroom.

The Thanksgiving part is clearly more important than the Happy which precedes it.  Gratitude is attitude, and even when we don’t always feel it, we need to pretend we do, and thanksgiving will find his way home to us again.  Happy Thanksgiving from our nest to yours…and ours is filled with a whole lot of origami right now if you need any cranes, fortune tellers, trees, swans, or hats.



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