My Thanksgiving ritual is slowly (or quickly, depending on your point of view I suppose) winding down to a single event; a skype session with my family that will start out very organized and end up in a tangled heap of ten different conversations from which we all emerge feeling drained and filled and loved. Those who've had turkey probably also feel tired. I only feel tired because I've had to wait all day to talk to them after they finish dinner. (which is only called dinner on Sundays and holidays, the rest of the time it's lunch)
I'm not really on board with the practice people have started of publicly stating what they're thankful for during November, only because I hate that many people truly believe this practice can be sequestered into a single month and still make their lives different all year long. I hope that they enjoy the practice enough to set aside time each day to find one amazingly awesome thing about the day or the people in it.
That being said, I've realized that the distance between me and Minnesota means that if I don't come right out and say something (or as with most of you, write something) then you don't know at all what I'm thinking or feeling. You don't tune out my endless chatter or hear my profound silence. You don't see that the smile is real or there for show. You no longer know the two weeks leading up to my colossal meltdown and don't know if I'm over or under reacting. You just don't know. If you don't know those things, you might not know other things; important things.
I love my children to pieces. I don't know if they always knew that but I hope that they did. Zach and Jess are such fine humans and rich personalities that it's hard for me to believe I had any part in raising them. I didn't do it alone. Their dad has been amazing throughout their lives and we all need to thank him for that. He didn't have to be present; many fathers aren't, even those who share the same house. I miss Zach's ability to take a short story and turn it into a novel. I love his intense passion for the things that matter most to him. I miss Jessi's hugs. I miss her absolute faith (hard won on both sides) in my opinion. I love her adventurous spirit and take-no-shit attitude.
My parents have always been incredibly supportive of their "different" child. (that would be me) I really did listen to everything they told me growing up. Somehow though, 1+1 doesn't always = 2 for me. Sometimes it = blue or dog. I suppose it's little comfort to know that I actually do start with 1+1. All those lessons I learned from them have made my journey here easier. The majority of my little decisions are solidly straight out of my growing years. How a toilet works, how to ask the right questions to get the answers you need, how to be happy. I love them for accepting my decisions, as crazy as they seem sometimes. I hope they know that my craziness is preceded by a lengthy period of good old fashioned consideration.
I miss my sister, brother and sister-in-law terribly here. There is so much comfort in talking to someone who knows you so well that sentences don't need to be finished for them to understand how you feel or think. It's been hard living in another language, but harder still to find myself so distanced from the ex-pats here. Not many Midwesterners come here and if they do they're from a different socio-economic group. (to put it baldly, they're wealthy and I'm not) Even when we speak the same language, we don't speak the same language. So I miss talking to someone who knows me so well that I never, ever have to provide background. I miss being inside a family that doesn't have a list of topics to avoid at holidays or people not talking to each other. I miss the absolute acceptance we give to each other, although I think my move here has tested that acceptance pretty hard at times. I miss them.
I miss my nieces. I miss Emmy so much I bought a pair of socks with cows on them so I could think of her on a regular basis. She has forever changed my world view on socks. She's not just a sock expert, but also committed to saving our world. If anyone can, she's the person to do it. I miss Carly's hugs and her voice. Like a magic trick, her voice can be anything at anytime. And like me, she can find the humor in just about any situation. I love her for that. I'm sad that I'm missing the part of Sidney's life where she is becoming. I want to hear her sing, play the piano. I want to watch her face while she tells me about the things that most excite her about life right now. I left before she had a chance to discover stuff. I miss Tasha. Lord, I miss Tasha. I miss her directness, her intelligence, her love. I miss my nephew James. He's crazy smart and rather talkative and very sure of himself. If you listen long enough (don't worry, he'll talk as long as you listen) you'll hear everything you want to know without ever asking a single question. Yes, I miss that.
I miss my friends, old and new. There is great comfort in knowing that there are people you can call and say, "Let's get a cup of coffee," and they will agree without question because they hear in your voice that coffee isn't what you need. They break diets if chocolate is what you need. When you call out of the blue they say "Gosh I haven't seen you in years....of course come over so we can make wedding invitations!" They ask the hard questions and listen to the answers. They truly would help you bury a body and instantly forget it ever happened. It may take decades for me to forge friendships like that here. If I live that long....
I''m grateful for all those things and more, but I'm also afraid. I know that doesn't fit into the Thanksgiving celebration comfortably, but there it is. I'm afraid of becoming a stranger to all these people I love so much, and of being estranged from them. I'm afraid that when I can finally come back for a visit we'll all perch on the edges of our seats in an uncomfortable silence wondering what to say the the person sitting nervously in front of us. My goal is to prevent that from happening. And to take every opportunity, like today, to tell them how much I love them. If I was there you'd be getting a real hug, not the typical Minnesota hug; only from the side and only for a moment. THAT'S how much I love you.