Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving...

Once upon a time, a young girl pictured her future Thanksgivings as a picture straight out of a Norman Rockwell picture. Her guests would come bundled up in their winter's best, walk up to her immaculate white house with the enormous wrap around porch spectacularly decorated for Christmas. Her debonair husband would answer the door and the smells of Thanksgiving would envelop the arriving family members. The young wife and mother would be dressed to the nines with her coordinating apron tied around her dainty waste and her high heels quietly tapping on the hardwood floors. She would welcome each guest with a gracious hug and warm smile. Her children would be playing quietly. Her daughter, in her freshly pressed dress and silky, smooth hair, would be playing house with her porcelain baby doll. Her sons, dressed in trousers, would be perusing the new Christmas gadgets in the JCPenny Catalog while watching the Macy's Day parade, and everything would be set as if carefully placed by an artist.

The turkey would be done and everyone would gather around the enormous banquet table covered in fine linens and candles. Every place setting matched and the plates would be so white they would glisten. Each person would have a salad fork AND a dinner fork, and we would use them in order of courses. In the center of the table would be a platter decorated with parsley and stuffing and on top a perfectly golden turkey shimmering in the candlelight. Her dashing husband would smile and say grace, while the young mother stood at his side beaming with pride. After the entire table murmurs "Amen", the husband takes his large knife (which would make the sound of sword leaving its sheath) and cuts the first slice of juicy, white meat...

This was my dream. My dream of how it would inevitably be, when my day came to be a wife and mother and host the Thanksgiving meal. From the moment I woke up Thanksgiving morning 2010, my Norman Rockwell picture slowly faded into a Thanksgiving rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond.

It had nearly been 24 hours since the preparations had begun for the enormous feast, and I was still wearing my ratty, purple sweatpants, a soccer t-shirt, and comfy Ugg boots from the previous day. I stood in the kitchen mopping the floor, cleaning the sink, checking the turkey, making the rolls...and sweating. I wiped my brow just as the smell of potatos boiling over filled the kitchen...

And I was thankful.

I'm thankful because wearing sweatpants and fuzzy boots mean I have clothes on my back. It means that my feet will be warm, and I will not shiver in the cold. My hot flashes and bouts of sweat mean I have a warm place to call my home; a shelter over my head to protect me from the ice and wind and rain. I'm thankful that the truly awful smell of water boiling over on the burner means I have food to fill my belly, and I will not go a day without food.

Sure, my kids weren't playing with porcelain dolls or quietly looking through store catalogs. But they were watching the Macy's Day Parade. Sort of. I at least turned it on. It was mostly just background noise to their screaming and fighting. Bored out of their minds on just the first day of Thanksgiving vacation, but they liked to fill the time with hitting, crying, and more hitting. Somehow, my two-year-old got confused about what Thanksgiving was all about, and as I was about to take the turkey out of the oven, he walks up to me with an open purse and says, "Trick or Treat!"

And I laughed and was thankful.

Because although my children, still dressed in their pajamas and unbrushed teeth, were nearly killing each other, I had no real fear for their lives. And though the Macy's Day parade held their attention about as well as a documentary on tooth decay would, and I was handing out candy to "trick-or-treaters", I was thankful that they could scream and cry and laugh. I am thankful that I have three amazing, beautiful, smart, talented children that are healthy. I am thankful that I have three children who can start each day fresh, with no pain. I am thankful that each night I will get three kisses, I will pray three different prayers, and I will sing three different lullabies to my little angels that I get to hold in my arms.

Finally, at 2:00 I finished all the food and cleaning that I could possibly do before it was time to get cleaned up. 24 hours of cooking and cleaning does not look good on a person, and I was in desperate need to get mashed potato and turkey grease out of my hair. The smells of Pine-Sol and Bleach mixed with flour and butter needed to be scrubbed off of my dried hands. And a little make-up and hairspray desperately needed to hide the dark circles under my eyes and bedhead that still lingered. So, Nick packed up the kids and headed over. By 3:00, I was presentable and rushed over for the Kellerstrass Thanksgiving Dinner. We ate at 3:30 and I rushed back home at 4:00 to get ready for the next Thanksgiving feast. Nick stayed with the kids, andI walked into the house alone, again, and sat on the chair and sighed a big sigh.

And I was thankful.

I was thankful that although I came home alone, I wasn't really alone. I had a huge extended family that love me. And even though I only could be there for an hour, my in-laws support me. They encourage me. They only want the happiness for me and my family. I have the best mother and father-in-law that see me really as their own daughter. I have four amazing sister-in-laws, whom I call my sisters and my best friends. And my, they're alright. I'm just kidding. No, I'm thankful because I've watched my brother-in-laws grow up from young boys to grown men, and they are the sweetest, most sincere men I've ever met. I am not alone, I am covered in love even when I'm not present.

After feeding all the Carroll kids (and the set-up was pathetic compared to my previous expectations). The dinners were served, the plates were cleaned and it was time to load up the kids. I hadn't sat down for one minute the entire day and now it was time to make the 30 minute trip to the hospital. The music blared and the Christmas tunes had already begun on the radio stations. I looked at Nick and rolled my eyes. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Christmas and Christ's birth, but the most wonderful season of all also brings the LONGEST stretch of repetitive Christmas songs EVER!!! After one day of Christmas music, I'm done.

But I was thankful.

I am thankful because I have the ability to travel from here to there. I am thankful because my husband has a job so we can afford a car and gas. I am thankful because at the end of this journey was the hospital. I'm thankful that God has given gifts and wisdom to lowly humans to save lives. I'm grateful that because of the caring nurses and doctors at the hospital, I get to celebrate another holiday with my mom. I'm thankful that despite having to wear gowns and masks just to see her, my entire family gets to spend an hour of time celebrating what we are thankful for...another year together.

The day was finally done. We drove home, put the kids to bed, and sunk onto the couch. I looked at Nick with glazed eyes of sheer exhaustion, and he came over and hugged me. I just sat there lifeless letting him take care of me because I just needed a hug and because I had no strength to move anyway.

And I was thankful.

I am thankful because although my "debonair" husband was not wearing clean khakis with a freshly pressed button shirt under an autumn color cardigan or laughing a hearty laugh while smoking a pipe, I know I am married to the most charming man ever. I know that he will not always be the most polished guy, but I know I will always be treated well and protected. I am thankful that he may not the most romantic man ever, but I know I am loved.

This Thanksgiving was not picture perfect by any means, but as I sit back and reflect on the day of madness, I realized I have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for this blog and for the freedom of speech that I can share with you my passion for my God and for orphans. I am thankful for the handful of people that read this and pray for our struggles and lift praises when we rejoice. I am thankful for the people God has brought into our lives who have supported and encouraged us along this journey called life. I am thankful for Jesus who came to save me, a mess of a person, so that I don't have to stand on my own two feet in front of God and hope I was good enough.

And I am thankful for this body. Though weak and frail and easily broken, I am strong enough to make it through the day...with a enough energy to go shopping at 2:00 a.m.!

Are you thankful this Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving!
Erin (and Nick and kids)

One final I was setting the table for our Thanksgiving dinner, I opened the silverware drawer and gasped. There would not be one single place setting that matched...

And I smiled in spite of myself.

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