Turn and face the strange
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Turn and face the strange . . . . . .
For many years, our dining room was the setting for every holiday. I prepared for a week before and cooked multi course dinners for at least 25 people. Thanksgiving meant two turkeys, a multitude of side dishes and desserts – some staples but different stuffing recipes each year and, very often, differing themes.
Then we moved and it was just the three of us at the Thanksgiving table. The girls rode in the morning while I did barn chores and savored the picture of them riding across the field with an autumnal backdrop of fall colors. There was a slower pace to the day. We stayed in our comfy clothes, cooked and ate when we wanted and watched the dog show. It was then we also decided that five pies was perfectly reasonable for three people and began calling the day “pie fest”. Our tradition had changed but we decided we liked it.
More time has passed and this year, my younger daughter, our dog and I traveled to my older daughter and her fiancée’s apartment in Hoboken, NJ overlooking the water and the NYC skyline. They set a beautiful table and together with my daughters in-laws to be we enjoyed a deliciously prepared feast, which included macaroni and cheese along with all the Thanksgiving standards. In between the meal and dessert, I walked my dog along the waterfront in the frigid night air and relished the sight of the big apple all lit up.
I inhaled the salty air deeply, knowing this would be our last moonlit walk along Sinatra Blvd as my daughter and son in law to be would be moving to Dallas in the New Year. Our Thanksgiving tradition will change yet again. Will we ride again in the morning and maybe now come home to a smoked turkey and some southwestern sides?
Changes abound. They can’t be stopped. They make most of us uneasy, but they aren’t always bad and, very often, they’re better. Maybe the guest list changes, or our health forces us to modify the traditional menu or a family recipe or maybe we create a new tradition entirely, turning the familiar entirely on its head. The trick is to not allow yourself to get stuck in the grieving for what once was, but to be grateful for what we once enjoyed and open to embracing the positives of the now.
My parents have been declining and struggling with living independently. A number of health concerns and events culminating in two falls within a week made it clear to all that it was time for assisted living. It’s taken at least two years to get here. This change, above all, was so daunting for them. We all had to adjust to the reversal of roles. Once they were the decision makers and protectors and now we must do it for them.
We comfort and cajole as we set the wheels in motion to make this move with them. I find myself ironing name labels into their clothes like I used to do for the girls when they went to summer camp. I hear the camp song on endless loop in my head as I iron: “Oh you hop on the bus and you take a little trip to the Thomas school of horsemanship!” They’d return home with sun-kissed faces, smelling of chlorine, as they’d tell me with excitement their stories of new horses, triumphs at swim lessons and new friends. If only my parents’ new adventure would yield the same enthusiasm.
Move in day had my Mom whining and weeping, as Sarah and I carried in armloads of clothes and hung family photos all around the room. I was struck by the turning of tables as Sarah instinctively practiced the art of distraction with her grandmother by asking, “Who’s this in this photo? Tell me about them.” as my mom would do for her when she was a little girl upset about something.
I can only hope there will, one day soon, be big smiles and happy stories of new friends from these senior campers, as well.
Change isn’t easy. It’s downright scary sometimes, but what choice do we have? So make sure your clothes are clearly labeled, buckle up, belt out that camp song with gusto and try to meet whatever comes with a smile.
Where’s your shame?
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time.