White Thanksgiving

by emily on November 27, 2014

The Thanksgiving montage I remember from my first decade was deep in snow. We went to visit a relative of my stepmother several years running. This woman ran a youth hostel, and my stepmother’s large Italian family converged upon it for the holiday.

What I remember:

  • A long, long table filled with so many people, food extending the length of the runway.
  • Joining in the running about like a child.
  • Sleeping in the bunk beds of the dormitory.
  • Driving, and crawling out of the backseat stiff and surprised by the scent of the air.
  • Snow

I’ve harbored all my life a deep nostalgia for a white Thanksgiving. Nostalgia in women, my therapist posits, is a form of sadness for that which never was. This would explain my talent for nostalgia.

So much never was in my childhood.

This year, there is snow. It began midafternoon, after I’d spent the morning baking pies and popping cranberries. Now, it is discretely yet insistently layering itself outside while my children sleep and my husband stretches out of the couch.

We took the kids out to dinner tonight, sitting with three beautiful little people around a table. Tomorrow, I’ll get up early to snowshoe in the fresh powder. I’ll listen to the quiet. I’ll cook the turkey for 4:00, so he can take them up the mountain to ski. We’ll eat together then watch Cosmos, tired and full and wrapped in flannel.

Eating out. Skiing. Vacation. Leisure. Choice. Astrophysics and flannel.

This is not the life I was supposed to lead. This was not the path laid out for me when I was six, eight, ten—the ages my children are now.

Safety. Comfort. Love.

These were not the things I was supposed to have. I look around at my life, and I don’t recognize it as belonging to the child I was. The privilege I live in now is as soft and fresh as a late November snow, and I was never supposed to have it.

This white Thanksgiving eve, what am I thankful for?

I couldn’t possibly answer a question that large.


The End

by emily on September 29, 2014

My darling, as I sit here in the dark, listening to you toss and turn, I want you to know how terribly sorry I am. Terribly, as in deeply and darkly sorry, for I knew this would happen.

This is why we hiked for hours today, trying to exhaust your little body so that when bedtime came, your body would take over and pull you into sleep.

Yet, I knew this would happen.

Today, in the parking lot of a Walgreens, your face was so brave as you held your thumb out steady while I painted Bite-It onto your itsy-bitsy thumbnail to make it taste bitter. But I don’t want you to think—even for a moment—that your mama’s heart wasn’t aching and her stomach wasn’t suddenly contracting at the thought of doing this to you.

Sucking your thumb may be the purest pleasure on earth. It calms you and brings you into your center. With your thumb in your mouth, you’re a totally self-sufficient circle. You with your thumb in your mouth, well, it’s the greatest beauty I’ve ever known.

When I was in that Walgreens, did you comprehend that these were your last moments to be wholly a free child, no strings and responsibilities attached? Because, the moment I painted that stuff on your thumb, you stepped over a tiny little line. If you didn’t feel it, rest assured your mama did.

I would have let you do it forever, I swear I would have. I didn’t care if you went to medical school with your thumb in your mouth.

But you would have cared, because it was affecting your articulation. Earlier today, you were ready, but right now, I know you’d gladly trade comprehensible speech for five minutes with your thumb. My job—my painful, bitter job—is to make that choice for you.

When you grow up and remember this moment, I hope what sticks with you the most is that your mommy sat in the room with you until you fell asleep. And I want you to know that taking this sweet intensity away from you is the guiltiest parenting moment I’ve ever experienced.

I will forever be mourning the peaceful sound of you sucking your thumb.

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