I have a confession to make. Much of Thanksgiving Day I was not very thankful.
My boys had been at each other for two days straight and they did not let up just to find the appropriate gratitude for the holiday. My husband and I both had preparations to do to get ready for the people coming over that afternoon. We love having people over and we love preparing the meal and the house, but it meant that we were otherwise occupied and less available for helping children get along. And of course the boys had extra energy because they get excited to have people over, too.
Under normal circumstances I can handle sibling rivalry, but after two days of non-stop whining and condescending and provoking tones of voices, I had had it. I let them know that their choices were to figure out a way to get along with one another or they would be spending quite a bit of time in their rooms. We managed to get them out for a scooter ride to run some energy but unfortunately it didn’t help much and they spent more time in their rooms than any of us would have liked.
So all morning I spent frustrated and trying to be thankful but all I could see was children who could not get along with one another and my trying was not getting me very far. All I could muster was taking the above picture of my three year old’s collection of nature items found on our scooter ride. I was acknowledging beauty. That was as close as I could get to gratitude.
Eventually our friends came over and the boys were distracted from their bickering and we all had a great time and I was thankful for a home filled with wonderful people and lots of love.
Then today started. Part of the boys’ consequence for their inability to live at peace with one another was no screens for the day today. Fortunately, there was plenty of distraction from that big bummer because it is Koo family tradition to get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.
We set up with another family to meet at the best tree picking spot in the world: Home Depot. We had some time between waking up and our rendezvous time and since screens were off we hauled out the Christmas boxes from the garage and set to work. Fortunately for me, our boys love helping decorate for Christmas and now they are old enough to have that help be actually helpful.
All the boys carried boxes to and from the garage. Joshua volunteered to set up the big nativity set, Colby hung the stockings and put out the miniature village, and Zachary got to help me pull out the Christmas quilt to hang on the couch. The quilt was the first thing that caused me to pause. My mom made that quilt for us a few years ago.
Pulling it out reminded me that last year, it stayed put away. I experienced a trauma at the end of last summer that ripped open the scars on repeated old emotional wounds. I have a place on my knee that I have cut a handful of times in my life and every time I bust that scar it hurts worse than before. I had been seeing a counselor a few months prior, but after the event my counselor and I decided it was time to bring in the big guns and graduate me specifically to a trauma therapist.
I spent that fall depressed. If you have ever experienced depression, you know it’s no fun. I guess that’s why they don’t call it happiness. By December I was trying to convince myself I was getting better because I was sick of depression and really hoping it would lift in January and shouldn’t I be starting to see some signs of that now? Fortunately for me, the depression did lift in January and not only that, but the special therapy techniques used to help the brain process trauma worked for me and now I feel like a new person. So much so that I think I had forgotten how dark the last year really was.
In order to heal, I requested some space from my parents. I needed to just be me, which may sound a little funny but it’s why the quilt stayed put away last year.
But by this year – just one year later – I hardly gave the quilt a second thought. And in the world of someone who has been seeing a therapist for over a year, when something is no big deal, that’s a big deal. When we got almost all of the decorations up, it was time to pull out the Christmas books. The one at the top of the stack is the Christmas memories book that is home to our annual picture and letter. I think the real reason I write a letter each year is to keep one for myself in this book.
I looked at last year’s pages. The letter was brief and only alluded to my struggles. I have a hard time faking things, so I was as honest as I could be without being a total downer. Then I looked at the picture. It was nothing new to me; I have this same picture up in two different places in my home. But seeing it in the book triggered memories.
My friend Peggy offered to take our family pictures last year. She is a friend from my kid’s school and a talented photographer. She knew I was having a hard time and thought that having some nice family pictures on the walls might help bring some cheer my depressed heart was having trouble locating. She was right; I do love pictures.
But seeing it in the book a year later I appreciated it even more. I don’t know that I would have gotten a picture out last year if it weren’t for Peggy. As it was, I was only able to muster about a third of the normal list of friends to send them to. I was so struck by the reminder that in the midst of such darkness, a friend reached out to me and loved me. And it reminded me that there was so many friends who reached out to me and loved me last year when I was too broken give them anything in return. And that is what love is. I was filled with gratitude. Gratitude to be loved and gratitude to be healed. Maybe it didn’t come on Thanksgiving Day, but better late than never, right?
What is your story about someone reaching to you when you couldn’t give back?