Holiday Traditions

Dinner this evening marks something for me that’s both good and hard.

This will be the first turkey dinner, or any holiday dinner, that I’ve cooked since December 2011. December 2011 was the last family dinner that I cooked. It was the last holiday that I was together with all of my children. Willie died less than 2 months later and life has gone sideways in so many ways since then.

Between Willie dying and me moving and the other boys feeling scattered to the winds, family dinners and holidays in general have just been too much hurt to even want to try to get through. I also had the great excuse that my oven in my rental unit was unpredictable and hence, no turkeys. A new oven and now that excuse is gone and I’ve had to face the real reasons.

I readily admit that I have always been someone who loves holidays. Christmas was a great one because the kids were off school for so long and my work would wind down so there was tons of time to just hang out together and have fun and relax. Being not religiously inclined and not materialistic, it wasn’t about the “traditional” aspects for me (and I tried to make it as non-commercial as I could muster for the boys). Presents were second fiddle to the breakfast on Christmas morning and the dinner and the simple laying around watching movies or going for walks and seeing the neighbourhood covered in snow and quiet from all the usual business. Loved it. Since Willie died, Christmas has been as non-existent as I can make it. The new normal is so far removed from what it was and what made it great that I haven’t even wanted to try to make new traditions. That’s slowly changing I think. The hurt isn’t as acute now and I see that, while it’ll never be the same, it can be great still, just different.

Thanksgiving this weekend has hit me surprisingly hard though. It has always been a small and pretty easily whipped through holiday. I’ve loved it because it always heralded the oncoming fall slow down and wrap up to the big “ahhh” of Christmas holidays. A starter pistol so to speak. Not to mention that I love to cook a big dinner and Thanksgiving was just another reason to pull out the morning cinnamon buns and get the house steamed up with turkey smells.

This year I have my second oldest son living with me and the seemed a reason to maybe toss out the idea of doing a dinner. He loved the idea and I jumped on board. Momentarily excited and loving the idea. Don’t get me wrong here, I DO love the idea. But I hadn’t realized what emotions it would stir up. A very much needed shopping trip last night and the snowball of emotions is under way…

Shopping first for a turkey and, after wandering to the monster sized birds, realizing that for just myself and Son 2, I wouldn’t need 25lbs. Over to the smaller birds and realizing again that it seems so altered. What in the world do I do with a 10 lb bird? It looks just simply wrong. Oh well, on to the fixings to make the rest of it happen. A reality hit that I have no spices in the house, more things to purchase. Aisle after aisle and a strange feeling of familiarity and oddness mixed. It’s all the same – the potatoes, the gravy, the seasonings, bakery bread for stuffing, onions… – all the same but so fundamentally NOT the same now. As I wander to get butter I see the pressure canned cinnamon buns and tears pop up. Twice a year those would be breakfast (rarely more than that). Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. Resplendent in their chemical and manufactured yumminess. A tradition from when the boys were tiny little kidlets that has become a sense of must-have for them on these dates. I picked it up and it was coming home with me.

So I sit here this morning, smelling the cinnamon rolls that just came out of the oven. Listening to the shower of Son 2 as he putters and gets ready. The dichotomy of loss and what I still have spins me from the inside out and I wonder when will it get easier to just enjoy what is here and not feel, so profoundly, the pain of what’s not anymore.

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