Happy Thanksgiving, America!
I watched the days tick past wondering if the annual grief of the aloneness would swamp me. I buried myself in work hoping I would simply wake one morning and realize I'd forgot to get a turkey.
I tried to avoid the Christmas merchandise aisles in progress at Wal-Mart and the grocery.
I tried to be happy for my co-workers already looking exhausted as they juggled our increasing work load (I work in financial services-this is our busy time!) and the activities inherent in family arrivals.
I succeeded for the most part-few moments of longing heavily outweighed by the many moments of real happiness for co-workers who have someones...
Payday I gave into the little voice reminding me I needed to get a turkey breast and the rest of the holiday trimmings; I have few needs now, so my basket overfloweth not, but did sport a nice turkey breast and Cool Whip for the frozen pumpkin pie I will 'cook 'n serve' in an hour or so.
I even know where the Christmas decorations are, and am trying to figure out where to put the tree-oh is Mozart gonna love that!
Once upon a time, before my world crashed and burned...
I began planning the holidays in January of the following year-what homemaker worth her salt did not?
The food and shopping began in October, August or September in leaner years when Crusty was bringing home the traditionally tiny pay packet of young men in trades requiring higher education but involving hand tools and engine oil.
(Why is so little respect accorded the men and women who doctor our mechanical transports? To me they deserve deep respect-their patients speak a language so foreign I am always awed when they revive what seemed a dead or at least dying vehicle. Crusty was an aircraft mechanic and at one time one of the top five rotor wing men in the world. Until he sold his soul, that is...)
The gift shopping was a constant, and because I was quite good at my chosen trade (homemaking) I managed to pull off some spectacular gift giving occasions.
But to the little collection of miserable souls I was trying to make a home for, Thanksgiving was the kick-off of a months long period of Holiday. Fox and I would decorate the tree Thanksgiving night around Crusty sprawled on the sofa snoring so deeply the windows rattled.
Fox and I would put on the VHS copy of "Santa Claus the Movie" and when the elves shouted "SEASON'S GREETINGS!!", well. for Fox and me, it was the beginning of the Christmas Season-a truly magical time at house that even the ass Crusty couldn't completely spoil no matter how hard he worked at it...
The Advent wreath, the anticipatory stockings, the drives just a bit out of the way to see a neighbour's annual display; church choir practices, until the last Christmas (1997) we were still a 'family' when Crusty deliberately scheduled his flight to arrive at such a time that I couldn't get to church in time to sing my solo...I gave up after that, I think.
What is worse, I ask, than the only gift you receive being an obligatory one?
What hurts more than approaching the holiday knowing the husband will not plan a secret shopping outing for the children so that Mom is gifted, yet is fully committed to punishing if a lavish display is not made for him?
One year I put nothing under the tree for Crusty, and did not plump the flat stocking hanging next to Fox's. I skipped his birthday, too, and Father's Day as well-O! I was on a roll that year. 1996.
Predictably he was outraged. When he asked why I told him that I wanted him to know how I felt every Christmas-Mother's Day-birthday when I had no token of consideration from him or Fox; he was furious with me for being so small, so petty as to try to teach him a lesson.
It's the thought that counts!" he pontificated, and merely blinked then turned away when I replied "Yes, precisely."
So Fox grew up with total contempt for me, a lesson learned at Crusty's ruthless knee; a profound, utter contempt fanned by my quiet surety that Crusty would turn his heart through my constant rosaries and prayers, and become a human being before it was too late-he would either grow into a person I could respect if not love, or he would summon enough common decency to let me and Fox go before it was too late for Fox.
But that was not Crusty's plan; he waited until Fox was sixteen to finally get the bloody hell out of our lives, and by then it was too damn late.
And he did it on Thanksgiving.
I googled Thanksgiving 1998, I wanted to know the date. 26th November.
I picked Crusty up at the Columbus Georgia airport around 8pm on the 25th. As though someone else was speaking through me, I asked him 'How's tricks?" A reference to his brothel patronage and preference for the company of the degraded over the wholesome...
The next day he sat down to the table and forced himself to eat everything on the table, ensuring there would be no leftovers for Fox and me.
He spent the entire time he was 'home' whiskey soaked and thus missed that Fox had already carved the turkey and had squirreled back enough Thanksgiving food to set a very nice table the day Crusty pulled out of the drive for the last time.
Crusty missed how empty was the pantry he cleaned out in his last move out the door saying that if I would not have sex with him, I didn't need the food he's paid for...
Fox knew what was coming, I don't know how, and had hidden enough food to feed us decently for a good while after Crusty's savage departure. Canned goods, and I have no clue how Fox kept the frozen things frozen, but he did. Within two hours of Crusty's U-Haul rumbling down the street, pantry and freezer looked a bit lean, but not empty. It was very nearly the last nice thing Fox did in the years before I finally left town.
Yes, that's right, Thanksgiving Day 1998, Crusty, my husband of 17 years, inhaled every thing not moving on the Thanksgiving table then got up and left the house for an hour-returning in a U-Haul, which he and an equally unsavory accomplice filled with everything paid for in the house-including all of the food from the fridge, freezer,and pantry.
He left the furniture, which confused me until the bill began to arrive-he'd NOT paid cash for it but had retrieved the check I'd written the March '98 afternoon when we'd filled our new little house with furniture. He took the money we'd been saving for years for the day we would furnish our first real house (we'd been living in a remodeled trailer for years).
In a not so amusing sidebar, the manager of the store off offered to let me keep the furniture if I serviced him once a month in his office, under his desk. Crusty was furious with me for letting the store repossess the furniture, saying I'd ruined his credit.
I still have the beach chairs Fox and I sat on for a year after Crusty cleaned us out, but the cardboard box we used for a dinner table went to the curb in it's time, as did the rest of the Goodwill and other cast-offs I managed to accumulate over time and then gradually replace.
The next Thanksgivings were in each year's uniquely awful way, awful; subsequent Christmas' agonies as well.
How can I forgot the special New Year's Eve '99 morning I pulled Fox out of a crack house at gunpoint?
Boy oh Boy, ya can't quickly get past Holiday memories that special!
Finally, after the shock and horror of Ivan in '04 was compounded by the monumental madness of Katrina '05, I left SouthEast Alabama.
I walked away from my son and his son, my grandson who lives with his mother and maternal grandmother; my grandson,whose mother is still an 'exotic dancer' who last I heard would like to leave the life but wants to fulfill her mother's request to replace all the household goods first.
No-one is battling the traffic, the weather, or their mixed emotions about a family Thanksgiving to make their way to my house for the holidays. No-one ever will now. I'm pretty sure of that.
And yes, the hurt is incredible.
Thanksgiving '05 was perfectly horrid. I drove down to Dothan with my then roommate, who swore to me Fox had said he wanted to spend the day with me. Ah, no.
But last year could have been worse. Thanksgiving '06 I spent alone in my own place. I did cook a turkey. I managed not to feel too awfully pathetic, too, spending most of the day cleaning house and raking the leaves. I watched the parade.
But I didn't cry.
This year is Mozart's first Thanksgiving with me. He is doing well, relaxing enough finally to luxuriate in his life; he sprawls on the sofa belly up. He gets into just enough mischief to make me strongly doubt the plan to decorate one of my fabulous fake trees.
Which I will do tonight. I will try to decorate for the holidays. I will try to overcome my fear of permitting my God graced natural optimism to be expressed-hey, it ain't easy being Sunnie when every single friggin' time I do let ME shine through some sorry little gremlin decides to teach me a lesson!
Yes, it hurts to know I have no-one but a half feral cat to care for me, and let me clear this up for you, I know Mozart sees me primarily as the big orange food bag carrier.
But I'm going to try anyway. What the hell, right?