Thanksgiving is my favorite Holiday. I wanted to share an awesome story about today, but realized it would make no sense unless you knew why I love this holiday so much. To paint that picture here is a post I wrote in 2010 from a now defunct blog.
About six years ago Dave and I were preparing for our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We found out days before that our baby had stopped developing in utero, and to expect a miscarriage. I was in denial, thinking that this little one would somehow make it. We canceled our plans to travel for the holidays and stayed home. Alone for our first official Thanksgiving, we started what is still my favorite tradition. We made a construction paper chain, each link decorated with something that we were thankful for. At that moment, with our fear about the pregnancy, the very real possibility that we would have another miscarriage, and the fact that we canceled traveling to see my parents, one of which was battling cancer, it felt torturous to come up with 15 things to write out on little strips of paper. Torturous, but cathartic. I was insanely grateful to have David in my life, grateful for our still budding relationship and our promising future. We played Christmas music, hung up our thank you chain, and created what is now a family tradition.
The day after Thanksgiving we purchased a tiny Christmas tree from a local drug store, about 3 feet tall, and decided to make our own ornaments. I made a modern art piece with no distinct patterns, shapes or forms, and simply titled it “State of the Uterus”. Putting my lack of control over something so central to what I wanted to become out for public viewing was again completely therapeutic. Thus the second family tradition. creating new ornaments the day after Thanksgiving, was born.
We lost the baby on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I would be lying if I said that I felt anything less than complete emotional broken-ness. But that Thanksgiving, that moment of stepping outside our current battles and remembering why life was beautiful and enough, that is still one of the best holidays I can remember.
A year later we spent the holiday with friends after serving Thanksgiving lunch at the homeless organization I worked at during this time. We had thought about traveling, but I was once again pregnant and having some challenges. When Dave and I came home from our festivities, we again turned on the Christmas music, made a thank you chain, and hung our first decoration of the year. We made new ornaments for the tree, and this time I did not use art to explain my feelings towards my body. We had a failed pregnancy before our wedding, had lost a baby who was 20 weeks along the year before, and we had several very early, day after we had a positive pregnancy test miscarriages over the last 12 months. Knowing I was pregnant was wonderful, but my expectations of creating a child had dimmed to mere hope.
After a harrowing pregnancy Twinkle was born in July of 2007. Our next Thanksgiving felt like a victory lap. I mourned the children that we had not had, but celebrated this amazing little girl who joined our family at the exact moment she was supposed to. We had a crowd that year. We made our thank you chain that night, and it had never been easier to think of the world with rose-colored glasses. Our daughter was small, her doctor labeled her failure to thrive, which as a mom I read as failure to mother, but in that moment, on that day, our 4.5 month old girl was home, I was bringing out my domestic side, and it felt so good to share it with people we love.
The next year, we were again pregnant. We had another miscarriage over the summer, but it didn’t feel the same. Dave was adamant that our family was perfect, and that the three of us made a perfect team. He didn’t want to see me lose another child; I didn’t want to see him look at me with pity. All of our pregnancy complications waited until after Thanksgiving to emerge. We hosted the feast again, this time with a group of just family. Twinkle was old enough to participate in making our thank you chain, at least at some level. At that moment the only thing I could concentrate on is that I knew this baby would make it, I knew Ninja was healthy and strong and going to be the final member of our family. When he was born premature, but so much closer to full term than I thought possible, I realized that our family was whole, and our children were perfect.
Last year was the first Thanksgiving we had our entire family in order. We hosted again, and this time Dave’s brother and sister-in-law came out to join in the fun. We made thank you chains, and Twinkle really got it. Ninja did what any portly almost 6 month old would do; he rolled around the floor and giggled with glee. After we hung up the thank you chain we decorated our tree and again made new ornaments. Twinkle made a bunch of gorgeous art, and for the first time I didn’t even consider making something related to uncertainty. Our family was whole, we had made it through terrible pregnancies, scary illnesses, and family trauma all while learning how to be our own little family, too. Our prayers of thanksgiving that year were so deep, so honest, and it felt like our fears were gone.
It is such a privilege and honor to watch them grow and learn about the world around them, to make good choices, and to learn to always find reasons to be thankful. I get emotional thinking about the journey Dave and I took to create these little lives, about the pain of losing so much, but that pain is always overshadowed by these amazing moments of grace that knock me off my feet. This year’s thank you chain will probably have to circle the house twice for me to get everything out that I am thankful for.
This morning the kids and I spent hours making ornaments to give away for Christmas gifts. While we were working they had this amazing conversation while I pretended not to be completely rapt with their gorgeous words. They bragged about how long their thank you chain was going to be this year. Twinkle offered to help Ninja write his words for him. They talked about making it long enough to decorate their own rooms, too. Then they exchanged reasons why this is their favorite holiday. At 4 and 6 these perfect examples of humanity spent at least twenty-three minutes discussing why thanksgiving means something to them while they made ornaments for their grandparents.
I think you know what my first two links of the thank you chain will say this year.