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Look Hard

December 1, 2011

Last Monday, my mother-in-law arrived.

On Wednesday, the rest of our guests, my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and two nephews were scheduled to arrive.

We planned on four days of fun, hiking, eating and togetherness. We planned to eat our Thanksgiving meal on … Thanksgiving day.  Events unfolded just a bit differently than we planned. I found that the universe served up opportunities for me to practice finding gratitude in the crevices and accepting was is.

Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, Abby complained that her throat hurt. On Wednesday morning, it still hurt. I grabbed the flashlight and peered in. Sure enough, I saw the tell-tale strep white bumps. I called the pediatrician and after our mad dash to her office, she confirmed my motherly diagnosis.

I called my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who had just boarded their plane to inform them. My sweet, tender-hearted nephew, their youngest son, cannot be knowingly exposed to strep or any other highly-contagious respiratory infection. My BIL and SIL had to make an on-the-fly decision about whether or not they could still come. They decided to come–and take respite in a hotel in Manhattan until Abby passed the non-contagious mark. (My BIL and SIL are smart cookies.)

We proactively had Henry tested for strep, just in case. His overnight test confirmed that he, too, had strep. (Which also confirmed for me that all of his behavior challenges the last two weeks were not only caused by his “broken mouwth“, but also by a brewing strep infection. Poor kid.)

Somewhere amid the food and plan-rearranging and jockeying, I realized my throat was quite sore.

On Thanksgiving Day, as part of my family spent the day in Central Park, I spent much of my day in my red flannel bed, in my jammies, sleeping. The kids spent much of their day in their jammies, making paper chains and allowing their antibiotics to work their magic.

I couldn’t believe that instead of cooking for all ten of us, I was in bed. And I reminded myself that any tension or frustration over the way events unfolded was entirely my doing.

For dinner that night, we ate left-overs at the kitchen island. I went to bed at 9 pm.

When Black Friday dawned for the rest of the United States, we awoke, refreshed and on-the-mend. The healthy status was relayed to our Manhattan-locked family and they packed their bags and headed to our house.  My BIL said at one point that being stranded in Manhattan really is about the best place one could be stranded.”You know”, he said,  “We could’ve been sequestered in a Holiday Inn in Topeka, KS.”

True, true.

I started the turkey and the gravy. Our home filled with the decadent aroma of a roasting bird. Soon, our home filled with the cadence and rhythm of  reunited cousins and brothers and sisters and grandmothers.

That Thanksgiving meal? Well, we finally ate it. Beautiful toasts were delivered and we all felt full. Full of food, and full of gratitude that we were finally together. A warmth spread through my heart.

I snapped this photo after we ate (and ate and ate). 

With the sounds of clanks and clinks dishes being cleared and washed as my backdrop, I surveyed the space we’d just vacated. A disheveled state of grace. The glow of the lights and the candles, the angle of the chairs, the third-generation silver, the child-made place cards, the lumps of used napkins. Ten chairs, each one filled with a connection, a body, a beloved family member. All signs of a decadent day.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2011 1:47 pm

    Oh, Denise. This is just beautiful and about as real as you would be. This is keeping your equilibrium, riding the wave, all that good stuff, in action.


    Thank you.

  2. December 1, 2011 7:05 pm

    It sounds like a wonderful thanksgiving (after the sickness. strep is THE WORST!!) Just think of how much misery you saved yourself by not denying your condition and by honoring yourself and your in-laws. You write about this so beautifully but I am sure that Wednesday and Thursday were no fun! Glad you are feeling better!! xoxo

  3. Christine Parker permalink
    December 3, 2011 9:01 pm

    Beautifully put, as always. Miss you. xoxox,

  4. December 3, 2011 10:12 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful writing. My husband used to call the years of young children and strep invasions “the tunnel.” I loved reading about how you made your way out of the dark and into the light. Children can make chaos and beautiful place cards in such a short period of time…a life lesson. Thanks again.

  5. Jennifer Stack permalink
    December 5, 2011 5:26 am

    Of course the writing and sentiments are beautiful, they are from Denise. But check out the dining room. Love the wall color and windows! XOXO Jenna

  6. December 5, 2011 11:36 am

    I love that being with family means togetherness, and if that means having to celebrate Thanksgiving a day later than most just so you can all heal and feast together, so be it. Sometimes people are so caught up in the inconsequential details that they miss the essence of the celebration. Glad you guys got to enjoy Thanksgiving. Sounds wonderful!

  7. December 5, 2011 4:52 pm

    This is truly lovely. When all is said and done, our worlds are the richer for those we share them with – friends, families.

    The rest? Frosting, and a little tidying up…;)


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