Expectations versus Aspirations

Growing up, Thanksgiving was a time of endless fun, food, family and friends.  My mom adorned in an apron, floured faced and Crisco covered hands—baked for weeks prior—producing an endless array of pumpkin breads, date cookies, fig tarts, warm apple and pecan pies with homemade whip cream piled high.

Thanksgiving morning, she’d serve up pecan rolls, scrambled eggs, bacon, buttered toast and coffee to the earliest risers before putting them to work peeling and coring.  The sweet smells of the kitchen intensified—transforming into the salty savory scents of roast turkey, turnip and creamed onions as the day marched on.

Parades and football games blared on the television as family and guests raised their voices to be heard over the clanging of pots and pans.   Two long tables set up for the feast, we gathered around, elbows touching, giving thanks as we gobbled up all the goodies.

After the sun had set and the last story had been shared, platters of sliced turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pickles and chips made their appearance once again—this time disguised as a towering  tray of  sandwiches.

Once married, I couldn’t wait to host Thanksgiving in our home.  My mom by my side helping me prepare the feast—shared her secrets to thick gravy and fluffy pie crusts—making the transition of me hosting Thanksgiving effortless.

My eighth year of marriage brought the blessing of our beautiful son Joey.  That year—as the holidays approached—I grew more excited as I anticipated gathering around our family table.   I imagined Joey in his high-chair in awe of the activity around him as my family talked of his miraculous presence.

I expected the day to be joyous and magical—but it wasn’t.  The sensations I treasured about Thanksgiving were trigger points for him-the sounds, the food, the crowd, blaring parades and random bursts of laughter—turning the once blissful event into a nightmare.   From the lit candles on the table to relatives fighting over whose turn to hold him, Joey was miserable.  My only choice was to place him (and me)as far away from the festivities as possible.

There we sat upstairs in my bedroom, door shut, windows open—watching a Disney video.  Thanksgiving took place downstairs without us.  The day was a disaster.  I was crushed.   When Joey finally settled down, I opened the door slightly to listen to the complaining and chatter about how awful the holiday had turned out to be—there were no complaints.  Instead I heard laughing, munching and toasts being made.  How could this be?   The day didn’t go as I expected—and then it hit me.     My expectations went awry—not Thanksgiving.

The next year, Thanksgiving came.  Turkey, creamed onions, warm apple pies and fig tarts all made their appearance—my mom cooking by my side.  This year I swapped out one ingredient.  I replaced my expectations with aspirations.  I aspired for Joey to enjoy the day.

I prepared the table and then I prepared my room.  Joey’s favorite toys, quilts and pillows sprawled on the floor.   Our feast topped the television stand—Cheerios and apple juice for him—a glass of wine and odorless dinner rolls for me.  I whist Joey upstairs as the first guest arrived.  As I put in the Disney movie and toasted his bottle—snow began to fall outside my bedroom window—unexpectedly.  Smiling to myself I knew I would cherish this Thanksgiving forever.

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