Thanksgiving and Things
I was very anxious about coming home for Thanksgiving this year. My mom describes this phase, the college phase as the don’t look at me phase. The one where the phrase “neither here nor there” is a person and the person is you
Throughout this time, you might find yourself experiencing some silly power struggles, i.e. who will cook dinner and whose car are we using and why do you fold your clothes like that. I know I have.
And this is the part of life where you drive and find out what job you want and get tattoos and try really hard to assert what is different. So, when you go home, it can be weird. In the past, for me, things have occasionally been weird.
I anticipated the same approximate level of weirdness this Thanksgiving, but I think I learned something instead.
This year, my family decided to visit my grandma in St. Louis for Thanksgiving. My grandma is probably 5’ 2”, weighs about 100 pounds and has the vocabulary and grit to compensate. She’s a serial introvert and like all grandparents, has a collection of passive aggressive comments to dish out whenever the situation calls for it, as well as when it doesn’t.
My favorite part of the day was talking about what you’re thankful for. Clearly. How incredibly original of me to say that. So we were eating, and grandma was saying how surprised she was at the high quality of the food and we were all saying what we were thankful for when she spoke up. Her voice is what you would expect of a 90 year old, her eyes were glassy, which wasn’t out of place after the amount of wine consumed and tearful exchanges exchanged.
“About 20 years ago, Grandpa started the Lange family gift fund. Since then, I’ve tried to manage it…it hasn’t been easy.”
My grandpa died around six years ago, of a heart attack. He had one glass eye, a row of mostly fake teeth, a toenail that went missing in a mowing accident many years ago, and a disposition that was willing to show you any of these, if you asked. He was incredibly savvy with money and profoundly generous at the same time.
“Each year, the family chooses a recipient to give the money to, and its purpose is furthering the spread of the gospel. And I just wanted to encourage you to do the same.”
As I was growing up, whenever we would visit my grandparents, we would do at least 40 minutes of devotion after dinner. The structure of this devotion time was at least 15 minutes taking time to read a chapter of the bible, probably 25 for the prayers. They had a list of people they would pray for that only grew in length overtime.Naturally, I used to hate this. Afterwards, as if it was a reward, my grandpa would happily lumber into the kitchen, grab a ceramic bowl that had “Bob’s Desserts” inscribed on the side and let us have our choice of mini Snickers as well as our choice of ice cream. The dinner making process was always a joint one between my grandparents, the clean up the same.
After he died, my grandma carried this burden of hosting on her own.This has not been an easy transition for her. She’s the one who locks the doors at night, who has deep questions for you as you clean the kitchen together, who made sure I did not track mud onto the clean tile floors when I was a kid.
I heard once that true love means never having to explain yourself. As I’ve grown and changed and returned to the same baby blue house with the skylight and bird clock and pinstripe flower wallpaper for these brief 20 years, I’ve learned that maybe love is learning, especially how to explain yourself.
I have changed constantly. As have my siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles and all of the people who have sat around that same table with my grandma and grandpa. Change is a given. Sameness is not a given. And it used to bother me, the sameness, in the form of an eternal list of prayers. But it wasn’t eternal and it did change. Some people in hospice died, some people who were about to get married got married, some missionaries got back from their mission trips. What didn’t change is that my grandparents felt it was important enough to do every night, after dinner. So this year, I’m thankful for the sameness, and the things that people before me felt were important enough to carry along the tracks of time with them.