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First comes love, then comes changes

First comes love, then comes changes

Originally published on 12-1-13

What was Thanksgiving Day like for you? Did you have to deal with your Grandma kissing you and leaving a little extra saliva on your cheek? Did you have to help your mom get everything together? Why don’t your brothers ever help? Did you eat the exact same menu that you’ve been eating for decades? Womp womp. Where’s the adventure, people? Doesn’t anyone know there’s a whole culinary world out there? Are there still kids in your family that are so picky about what they eat that boxed macaroni and cheese MUST remain on the menu?  Did your uncles stay late, unbutton the top button of their jeans and watch football while you washed the dishes?

You’ve got 24 days before you’ll bravely venture into familyland again. The train is gaining speed and Christmas is quickly approaching! Choo choo! Hopefully your friend will invite you over to her house and you won’t have to endure your family for the 30th year in a row. Snore. Or better yet, maybe you will come to your senses, and appreciate all the sweet bits of ordinary joy that family gatherings bring.

After 29 straight years of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in my hometown, I spent it away from home. Like sands through the hour glass, these are the days of our lives. Thanks, One Life to Live. Never knew you’d ever be useful.

I’m married now. Did you know that? Two days ago was our three month anniversary! Don’t worry I’ll be sure to remind Guapo that a romantic dinner is in order. First comes love, then comes marriage and then comes the division of holidays.

We decided to spend this Thanksgiving in Austin and we had a beautiful day. We enjoyed a delicious lunch lovingly prepared in part by Whole Foods. Hello, can I get my non GMO turkey with gluten free, soy free, stuffing? And don’t forget the dairy free, soy free, fat free corn bread. I’d like to pick it up at 1pm. What’s that, I’ll have to pre-heat it for 20 minutes? Fine, I guess I can swing that. We enjoyed a long delightful lunch with family and close friends (I brought the Whole Foods and they prepared all the good stuff, praise Jesus for pumpkin pie and Cool Whip) and then we headed to the evening UT football game. It was rather cool, so we bundled up and cheered the Horns on to victory.  It was a perfectly entertaining day.

Around 6pm, something in me switched and I was all of sudden not in the best of moods. I was short and irritated. What had happened? I needed to wag my moody finger in someone or something’s direction. The scavenger hunt began. Guapo was acting funny. Yeah, that’s it! Guapo is acting funny. Nope. Ok, next corner. Maybe the weather was the culprit. I’m freezing and uncomfortable. Yes, that’s got to be it! After a quick check, I was cold, but overall fine. Nope. Try again.  I’m hungry and there are no more corn dogs left in the entire stadium! How can corn dogs be 86ed at a college football game? Who does the inventory around here?! I muscled through the game and swayed back and forth when the band played a fun song, but I was feeling crumby and I was having a hard time shaking it. What’s that? It’s written all over my face? Piss.

When we got home and took off our cold weather boots Guapo looked at me and said, I think you’re sad you’re not home. The wheels in my head started to turn but I remained quiet.

As I surveyed the day, considering it was a holiday, I realized I had had very little interaction with my family that day. My Dad and I exchanged some texts and pictures, he impressively upped his turkey carving skills with the help of You Tube and I spoke with my Mom for a few minutes early in the day. Normally my folks host Thanksgiving lunch for all my aunts, uncles and cousins. Most years there are about 40 people in the house and when all 40 family members hold hands and bow their heads for grace, I know it’s not only a moment that serves as glue but is a moment my late Grandma and Grandpa are proud is happening. I made sure to have someone call me and put me on speaker phone while grace was being said so I could bow my head with them, which was a sweet moment.  As I continued to survey the day it dawned on me that I hadn’t talked to my brothers, and I hadn’t eaten my Grandma’s rice recipe that had been handed down. I hadn’t been at home. I couldn’t pin point it, but my good juju was off. I quickly sent my brothers a holiday email and it started to sink in just how much these family events mean to me.

I had a little hole in my heart because of the change of pace. I didn’t see my younger cousins and collect tight hugs, I didn’t get to shock my Dad’s sisters with crude jokes, and I didn’t get to coerce anyone into taking family photos.  I missed out on outrageous stories told by my cousin Tim and didn’t have to warn my tiny cousins about saddling up Beau. My Thanksgiving Day in Austin was delightful and luckily I spent it with the man I love, but it was different.  

So many times we don’t even stop to recognize how much we love something or someone , until it goes away, until it’s no longer at our finger tips. The funny thing is I thought I had a good handle on gratitude and being in the moment, I thought everyone else was taking things for granted. Certainly I wasn’t taking things for granted! Could I have been?

Last year I was running around Thanksgiving with my family, living on a prayer, wondering what my life was going to be like for the next few years. I didn’t give it a thought that it wouldn’t ALWAYS be this way. The possibility that we wouldn’t always be together, eating in my folks’ living room, dolloping whip cream on our slices of pumpkin pie until there was no more whipped cream left, never entered my mind. Holidays and spending them with aunts, uncles, and cousins always felt safe and stable; I guess that’s the hope of every family.

This year my Weslaco family gathered in my parent’s home and I was away spending time and making memories with the new additions to my family. As we age and grow and take on new responsibilities and relationships, our lives take different shapes.  However, the shape of my life had largely stayed the same for 29 years, so I was a bit thrown.

I am looking forward to Christmas more than ever and will be sure to put that whole -- not taking things for granted -- sentiment to heart.

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days
Hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this
-        Trace Adkins

I got really big for my britches and didn’t think missing a family holiday would faze me, but it did.  I always knew I liked family events, but I didn’t know just how much they meant to me. Appreciate the idiosyncrasies of your loved ones and of those big family moments, that’s where the sweet bits of ordinary joy are. 



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