Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell
Right, so Im not so sure that Norman Rockwell’s famous print, Freedom from Want, is an accurate portrayal of what Thanksgiving truly is.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve romanticized the ability that the Holiday’s have to unite the family. Especially Thanksgiving. In my head, it’s a time when we should all gather ’round the table together, enjoy an old-fashioned specially prepared meal, and recognize all that we have to be grateful for.
As you walk through the door of the of the home where you’ll be celebrating the big day, you immediately notice a blazing fire in the fireplace as you shake off the cold and bits of snow that stick to your wool jacket. As your host helps you with your scarf, gloves and dish that you’ve brought to share, your senses are assaulted from the aroma of pumpkin pies, cinnamon pinwheels, or maybe even the pine tree scent of a live tree. (for those of you who jump the gun on Christmas!!)
You look around and spot a children’s table set up somewhere in a discreet corner where chaos is sure to break out. The women are gathered in the kitchen, each with an assigned duty to help make the meal flow – All the while catching up on news from each other’s family’s. The men, all gather in a room with a giant screen TV watching some must-see football game. In good nature, they slap each other on the back and laugh loudly at something just out of your earshot. They debate and argue about whose favored team is best and sure to go to a bowl game.
All of this activity leads up to some fantastic meal that you’ll all gather around, while celebrating the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. This is Thanksgiving!!
Or, is it? Is Thanksgiving really all about this festive scene that’s been planted in our heads with the help of the media and storybook tales and long-lived family traditions?
Let’s face it: as wonderful as the holiday may be (a day dedicated to football, gluttony and awkward family moments) maybe Thanksgiving is about something deeper. Something deeper than this gluttonous tradition that we’ve all been raised to treasure. A tradition with a very questionable beginning might I add.
Last September, something joyous happened in our family. My husband and I were having Sunday breakfast with my son and daughter-in-law. They told us about a shopping trip they went on in which they found a little something for us. It was an early “Christmas gift” but they wanted us to open it together that morning. Lauren handed me the bag and I peaked inside. I saw a gift along with a homemade note. I pulled the paper out and read it aloud. On it was written – “Only the best parents get promoted to grandparents.” *blink* I had not even made it through the end of the note before I started squealing in happiness. I turned to my hubs and he was tearing up. I continued to squeal, ran to the kids and hugged them. They were giggling. I was squealing. Clark was crying. It was a beautiful scene! We were going to be Grandparents!!
Fast forward thirteen weeks. Fast forward past thirteen weeks of my beautiful daughter-in-law, Lauren, being cautious and keeping the pregnancy on the down low until just the right time to make the announcement. I couldn’t wait to share the news with my sisters and friends and relatives. Lauren and my son Bruce were doing everything right. They went to the Drs’ appointments together. There were ultrasounds and multivitamins. They were eating healthy. There were checkups. Everything was moving along perfectly.
And then, the phone call. This past week, Thanksgiving week, I woke early to a text… “Hey Mom, txt me when you get up. Bruce left for work already so it doesn’t matter how early it is.”
As a mother’s intuition goes, I instantly got a knot in my stomach. I immediately called Lauren. It was before 6am. Something was off. I could hear it in her voice as she answered. And then her words hit me like a brick. “Something’s not right.” She had phoned her Dr and was told to take her time but to meet her at her office when she had a chance that morning. They would check things out.
I threw on some clothes and raced through the Chicago rush hour traffic to her apartment. Ninety agonizing minutes. And then we drove to the hospital together. Bruce was waiting for her there. My hub was there. Clark and I watched as the kids walked into the exam room. An hour later our worst fears were confirmed. Lauren had lost the baby. It was heart wrenching to watch their world fall apart.
Outside the downtown office, it was cold and windy that day. Clark and I looked at this young couple who had just gotten the worse news of their lives delivered to them. In the span of a few days they were catapulted from cloud nine to a state of agonizing devastation. It was more than any of us could bear. Our hearts were broken.
The days to follow were solemn. Everyone tried to hold each other up. My boys, who would have been uncles for the first time, were heartbroken for Bruce and Lauren. Devastated, Clark and I kept a close eye on the kids to make sure they were processing this tragic loss. They came out to stay with us. It was open-ended. They wanted and needed to be with family. And so, we gathered and just stayed together. It was without a doubt the hardest thing that both Bruce and Lauren had ever gone through in their lives so far. And, they were right where they needed to be for the time being.
The day before they were going to leave to go back to their own apartment, the news stations were warning people about an early snowstorm that would hit the city. We don’t usually get snow in November. We rarely even have snow on Thanksgiving. But, we were being warned over and over again that we were about to get hammered.
I woke up very early that morning after that predicted snowfall. I pulled the drapes back and l looked out my window. The outside world was lit up from the glow of the moonlight. The predicted snow had come. The ground and streets were covered with a deep blanket of undisturbed white that stretched from one yard to the next.. There were no tracks on the streets yet and no footprints across any lawns. It was beautiful. And, peaceful.
My eyes were drawn to our driveway which had four cars parked on it. Those were my kids cars hidden under those mounds of snow. Cars that last week would not have been parked on that driveway. Cars that were there that morning because we, as a family, had gathered together to hold each other up while mourning the loss of something so precious to all of us.
I thought about the timing of it all. It was Thanksgiving week. I smiled to myself and got a feeling of warm love inside.
This…. This is what Thanksgiving truly was. Family. Love. We feel each other’s pain. We celebrate each others victories. And I’m so truly thankful for the blessing of Family.
Wishing you and your loved ones a truly Happy Thanksgiving and a Joyous start to your Holiday Season.