For Thanksgiving we took our annual roadtrip to Baltimore to see J, M, & S – a lovely tradition for us. We took the dog, and he and their dog had an electric time together (heaven help us, they like each other so much they have to occasionally be separated). J smoked a marvelous turkey (the man is a genius with meat), and M did most everything else, cooking food for a bunch of us that she couldn’t eat herself due to non-frivolous dietary restrictions. I chipped in here and there, but, mostly, B and I had a beautiful meal delivered to us (of which, I should note, B only ate mac n’ cheese, cornbread, and bacon, although he tried the turkey). We looked around the table this year and said that we thought we did the best, yet, with not making too much food. Still, there was an embarrassment of food and love. This year I took with me Seth Godin’s The Thanksgiving Reader, which my friend KS shared on Facebook. The Thanksgiving Reader is a short collection of poems, stories, and quotes about gratitude with a humanitarian, rather than a religious, bent. It is available online for free as a PDF download. We did a joint reading to get us started, then each read something from the collection, then closed with a joint reading. It was simple and focused on the important stuff. Then we ate and talked and enjoyed one another.
The next day, we spent time here and there, but together. In the morning, M and I visited a friend of J & M’s who is in a rehab facility after an aneurism led to aphasia; we also spent time with her stalwart and faithful husband, who loves her and works so hard on her behalf. Later we took the kids to lunch at an old-fashioned lunch counter (remember the “robbery scene” in the Christmas miniatures in the window?), and then for the ice cream for which they’d been begging. We did a whirlwind stop at a very large mall on Black Friday, complete with 6 flights of stairs because of a broken elevator. We laughed, as we always do together. We had marvelous leftovers, I bored M with photos on my computer, and then we retired early.
Throughout this trip, I harped on mythankfulboy to step up and see what other people needed and to take care of others without being asked. B is a very sweet, compliant, and helpful kid, but it has never been his strong suit to anticipate the needs of others. Perhaps it seems picky to expect this of a 13-year old boy, but I think we’re in a serious teaching phase for this skill, and I don’t want to miss it and wonder why he doesn’t do it when he’s a grown man. So I fussed when we both got fountain drinks from a drive-thru on the way to Baltimore and he got his own straw ready and took a big swig of his drink and I had to ask him to get a straw for me (I was driving). When he was listless in that awkward downtime before the Thanksgiving meal, I told him to see if his “Uncle J” (chosen family, not blood) needed help out where he was working on attaching cedar shingles to an amazing shed/party house he has been building in the back yard. At dinner, I asked B pointedly when he rose from the table and got something from the kitchen if he had asked anyone else at the table if they needed anything. After dinner, while sharing media with M (akin, perhaps to the old boring showing of the vacation footage on reel-to-reel video), I shared a video of my nephew (blood kin) and his bride in a beautiful foot-washing ceremony at their wedding. She and I talked about the ceremony’s Biblical roots, and how, in the ceremony, the preacher had said it was a reminder, in marriage, to always put one’s partner first. I hadn’t consciously brought this up, but B was across the room, ostensibly watching tv, and was paying attention.
Relatedly, in the late afternoon, B perseverated on whether or not our Apple charger was (and mostly wasn’t) charging his iPod, and I finally told him I was really tired of hearing about it, at that he should find another way to entertain himself. Lately, this has been a recurrent theme, I’m afraid. He took himself off to the side and watched TV quietly for the rest of the evening. When I started to put my things together to go off to bed, though, he looked up and quietly said, “Mom, you’re my real bae.”
If you are unfamiliar with teen-speak, “bae” is short for “before anyone else”, or for “babe”, or “baby”. Teens use it to stand in for “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”. B has not been so hot on the concept of significant-others lately – I think he’s in an in-between place where he likes girls, but he doesn’t like the prospect of their taking up all his time or interfering with his established guy friendships. A friend of his just got his heart broken, which hasn’t furthered the cause. So, I guess for now, it’s safe for him to give me the honor. I felt the put-others-first lesson come together right then; being someone’s before-anyone-else means paying attention to them – putting them first. I got the message.
And, of course, I’m sure he figured no one would ever know he said such a thing. This is the part where I will put it down in text so I can remember it, and I will ask for forgiveness later, rather than for permission now…
When we got home today, B went straight to his dad’s house, giving me a chance to sit down in front of a fire and think about our weekend. I come away from this weekend thankful for the fun and the hospitality, but also thankful for friends who show B what marriage should look like, for my whole chosen family (Baltimore and beyond) who show him what it means to put others first, and for the example our community models when it comes to finding joy in gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving to us and to all of you.