The pre-Thanksgiving invasion was broken down into four phases.
The first phase occurred on Friday, November 17, when my wife, the Commander Supreme, returned from Connecticut with my mother-in-law, the Senior Warden.
Phase two took place on Saturday morning. It involved the always enjoyable drive up I-95 to Reagan National to fetch our oldest daughter, Lauren, her husband, Doug, and their two year old daughter, Caroline.
The third phase took place late on Monday afternoon when our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, drove in from Raleigh.
And the final phase was completed by midday Tuesday, when our son, Andrew, his wife, Kathryn, and their five month old daughter, Josie, survived another I-95 excursion from Arlington.
Just recanting the invasion arrivals makes me weary. Family invasions are not for the faint of heart. If you want to stop reading now because your anxiety levels are exceeding normal medication stages, I understand.
Our son-in-law’s year has been challenging. Doug and his sister, Pam, sadly lost their parents. With that in mind, my wife and I agreed to watch Caroline from Sunday until late afternoon Tuesday. Let me correct that. The Commander Supreme agreed to watch Caroline. So that Lauren and Doug could get away to New York City.
Surprisingly, Caroline managed pretty well. I only noticed one slight quivering of her bottom lip when she saw a photograph of her mom one morning. But, it can be easy to forget about Mom and Dad for a few days when your grandmother is spoiling you at every waking moment.
Two year old Caroline and five month old Josie were quite a contrast. Josie during her waking time was fairly quiet and exceptionally attentive to her new environment. Her clear, curious eyes constantly scanned her surroundings. Occasional smiles, and happy sounds on her toy mat mesmerized the adults around her.
All parents worry a bit about the “terrible twos”, but Caroline never displayed a total meltdown during this visit. At times, she was fairly consistent with the words “no” and “out” when her space was invaded a bit.
By Wednesday, the final assault of food preparation for Thursday was being put into play by the Commander Supreme and her mother, the Senior Warden. The pursuit of meal perfection raises the stress levels in the house. In those moments, it is best to stay out of their sight lines.
With the pursuit of perfection meter rising, I think about putting a sign on our front doors stating: Enter At Your Own Risk*. The asterick is an extra warning of sensitivity to Caroline and Josie’s schedules, and that no offense is intended if Caroline’s first words to you are “no” or “out”.
Some how, we made it to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday for the big meal. We had one small glitch in the kitchen, the gravy boiled over.
There were 14 of us around two tables. This included Betsy’s brother, Ken, his wife, and their three children. And one more invader, Elizabeth’s friend, RH, who had driven up from Edenton, North Carolina.
Before we dug in the food, the first thing I did was to toast the Commander Supreme. Then I offered a prayer. It wasn’t the prayer I wanted to say.
As I looked around those two tables, my internal pondering was thinking I don’t have a clue about thankfulness. I take too much for granted.
Never in my 64 years has a Thanksgiving meal been in doubt for me, nor anyone around these two tables. And yet, across America today organizations of all types work to insure that a plate of turkey plus the trimmings are provided for those who have not been as blessed as me.
My prayer opportunity about thankfulness and taking too much for granted was missed. If I’m around next Thanksgiving, I promise myself to prayerfully make those points.
Time always flies when families gather.
The day after Thanksgiving, on a frosty Friday morning, I found myself driving Lauren, Doug, and Caroline back up I-95 to Reagan National. It was a quiet drive.
Only one cabbie impatiently beeped at me. To the best of my knowledge, I was in the correct lane. Oh well, maybe someone ate his extra piece of pumpkin pie.
We scrunched our way to the departure point, put on the flashers, and unloaded. Car seat, stroller, luggage, camera bag, backpacks, and the most important piece, little miss no, Caroline Louise, were carefully placed on the curbside.
All along the departure area, family and friends were in the same ritual. Bags pulled from cars, followed with words of thanks and affection, and finally quick hugs.
My leaving was christened with a high five and a blown kiss from Caroline.
I’m a worrier, and on the ride back to Richmond, the worrier in me kicked in about Thanksgiving. I wondered what future Thanksgivings might be like for Caroline and Josie.
The Thanksgivings of my youth are gone.
Simple times. A large family gathering.
The meal made from scratch, no ordering from a grocery store.
One midday football game, the Packers and the Lions played outside.
No constant media bombardment about Black Friday super sales.
Just before, we served ourselves the meal, there was always one final ingredient—prayer.
We gathered in a circle grasped the nearest hand for a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness, a prayer from a family that understood the hardships and recovery from a real Black Friday.
I think my worry is that we are losing our way.
A quiet day of national thankfulness appears to be slowly eroding.
I sense we are more willing to enter retailer doors (sometimes with risks) to secure a great deal than we are to truly appreciate the merits of a national holiday. Just consider how many retailers are now open on Thanksgiving day.
In my old mind,Thanksgiving is as important as any of those great deals.
Perhaps, I need to remind myself about Caroline’s favorite word when it comes to all of the non-Thanksgiving encroachments—no!