As a teenager, Thanksgiving became a day of travel for our family, Broadway the burgeoning convention. We consumed gas station snacks on the way to see Miss Saigon, and another year had Pizza Hut right before Rent. New York City's bustling sidewalks and twinkling lights turned out to be way better than turkey and stuffing.
Many years, volunteering at the food pantry allows us to devote a tiny part of ourselves to the well being of others. This year, staying home lets us contribute even more. We've been highlighting, for months, the duty we have to do (or not do) things for the good of the community. While lives become numbers on an ascending chart, it is not a hard decision to stay home.
While ideas of normalcy carve longing into the guts of so many, fortune is not an impossible conclusion to draw. We are capable of grabbing hold of gratitude even when it's slippery, especially when it feels just out of reach. We have ripe avocados and new books to read, holiday candles and soft pants and pumpkin pie. We have each other.
This year allows us to reopen tradition, liberated from sleep-walking through what we've always done, a chance to live a little differently. We put up the Christmas tree early and plan to eat corn dogs for lunch. This year may feel unique and unprecedented and unnerving, but the boys help us risk delight.
School on the computer is mostly devastating, but sometimes not.
The drumbeat of the day is mostly: No, we can't do that, but we can develop our disappointment muscles.
The fierce (false!) voice about the mess, the clutter and chaos, is mostly loud.
Sometimes real teachers arrive in the mail, meaningful activities clipped from the newspaper with encouraging notes.
Sometimes a faint echo, a narrow bridge, reminds us what good work we are trying to do here, and how many people are rooting for us.
I am not sure about the work we're doing, whether it's actually productive. I could learn from him, a million things, but especially what it's like to do nothing and rest afterward.
I watch as he lounges in the hammock and then follows the cats, eventually inviting me to walk. Over leaves as thick as leather we discuss twelve year molars and thank you note etiquette. We catalog, leisurely, things like grievances and gratitudes and a variety of fungus from the nearby woods. He tells me, tonguing the newly empty spot on his gums, about writing code and about the way word order doesn't matter in Latin.
I'm still not quite sure what anthocyanins are, but I do know this: he is sugar and sunshine, a precious gem of a preteen.
A few weeks ago I looked out over the kitchen sink to see the boys helping Andy rake leaves. They worked and played and eventually cleared the yard.
Many evenings before they come in, there's a round of flashlight tag or hide and seek or capture the flag, and Andy often participates. The boys know he will make time for their games, especially if they help cover patio furniture and collect toys from the lawn.
A tree fell recently and Tolliver had grand plans for building a laser rifle blind / snowball fort. I don't know why I was even surprised to see them out there hauling logs and arranging two by fours to support walls. The fallen tree was removed and two forts erected, smiling faces all around.
I love to watch the way the rubber band of willingness stretches between all the boys, some kind of magical formula of mutual generosity.
I don't know everything about parenting either, but I am so relieved to raise the boys in an America actively working to broaden the concept of equality, and in a home where advocacy may be fueled less by fury.
I cannot wait to hold this little moonbeam in my own arms.
Anything else going on this week?
While this was not a traditional Halloween, the boys did collect plenty of candy and had several opportunities to wear costumes. On Saturday they waved to Great Grandpa Jim on his patio, paraded across the church parking lot for masked on-lookers, and came home to find dozens of orange eggs hidden in the yard, along with a giant pinata, courtesy of the kindest neighbor. Although different, these activities were joyous and helped kids and grown ups dial down the doom that surrounds us.