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It is thirty minutes past midnight, and I’m waiting for my last pie to come out of the oven. I can’t believe how easy this has been.

I was always expected to do the holidays up big. Massive amounts of food, entertainment for the children, and absolutely no help from anyone but my kids were standard fare. Weeks were spent in meal planning, cleaning, decorating, and craft or game preparation.

The day before the big holiday was always the hardest with all of the cooking and last minute to do lists.  The kids usually took the entire week off school to help with what they could.  I was expected to fix a regular big meal the night before the grand event and then, of course, I had to “tuck in” my husband.  No, that was not a cute reference to intimacy.  That didn’t happen.  I literally had to tuck him in–pull the covers up over him, listen to his sad tale of woe of how rotten everyone at work treated him, and then sing him to sleep.  Tending my man-child meant I lost a good hour I desperately needed to spend in the kitchen.

I stayed up late and arose early, and I felt like my kids got lost in the shuffle and rush.  Every year though I hoped this would be the year that everyone was happy, and I earned favor in their eyes.  I hoped my efforts would pay off.

On the holidays my brother would barrel in with his daughter and command her to help me.  The biggest help would have been for him to let her stay with her mother, but he insisted on having her and insisted on her staying out of his hair, so I had to let her help me.  Besides, he had tried very hard to convince me that I was her only hope to ever learn certain womanly skills, like cooking.

Every holiday was the same story though.  At 12 years old she was still obnoxious and lacked any and all social graces.  On Father’s Day she lifted the salt shaker high in the air and dumped salt over all of the food on the entire table.  That Christmas she dumped a bunch of dish detergent in the broth I set aside to use for the gravy.  I scrambled to find activities to keep her busy and away from the food.

The next holiday I set up a card table in my room and had pre cut crafts for the kids to work on.  She immediately took over, hogging the supplies and telling the other kids what to do with theirs.  My brilliant plan backfired as chairs were knocked over, children were in tears, and it rained little pieces of cut up paper all over my bedroom.

Dinner was not to be late either.  They did not come to sit around and wait.  If they had known it was going to take that long they would have stayed home and taken a nap.

If the house wasn’t perfectly cleaned and decorated I was chided for keeping house like my mother.  I struggled and yearned for the comment, “Boy, ole Sis did her up good.  Don’t know where she got it.  Sure didn’t learn it from Mom.”  Then, I knew that I had obtained a measure of success even though it had nearly killed me to get it.

The last Christmas I cooked for my dad, my brother, my niece, and my husband was like every other.  I ran around scrambling as usual to get the meal on the table and prevent my niece from hurting anyone or anything while they all sat in the living room mocking me.  My brother repeated loudly over and over that watching me and my oldest sons prepare the meal was like watching a cluster f—.

Once we sat down there was no fan fare.  There was no lively, stimulating conversation.  It was just the usual, my husband would complain about work, talking with his mouth full of food and spitting it on nearby plates.  My brother would laugh, mocking everyone.  My dad ate silently and told me what a good meal it was.  My kids ate in silence or nervously laughed at my husband and brother’s inappropriate comments.

The meal was over in a matter of minutes.  My dad would leave; he had to get home to the dogs.  My brother would stay and want to practice martial arts moves with my husband, so the two of them would roll around on the floor together.  It honestly looked like they were feeling each other up rather than working on any fighting skills.  What do I know though?  Maybe if one man jumps another man from behind the best thing to do is grab his crotch.

I drank.  A lot.

This year though went smoothly.  My house isn’t company clean, but it is never as dirty as when my husband lived here so I don’t really panic over it.  The kitchen floor desperately needs mopped and the carpet could stand to be shampooed, but the toilets are always clean and things are always pretty well dusted.

Today I made macadamia nut stuffing, including making the sweet bread croutons for it.  I made my mom’s Jell-O dish, two of my great-grandma’s sweet potato casseroles, a caramel apple pie (which my 3 year old helped with), a “decadent” pumpkin cream pie, and prepped some stuff for the green bean casserole.  I’ll throw together a fruit salad while the turkey cooks.  And, the dishes are all done…..by hand; I don’t have a dishwasher.

I didn’t spend all day in the kitchen either.  I paid bills online and balanced my checkbook.  I wrote my blog.  One of my oldest friends sent me a “Thanksgiving basket” via Paypal, so I went grocery shopping.  I took the younger kids to swim lessons, corrected my 12 year old’s school work, and did some laundry.  My 16 year old worked for the neighbor after school today.  My 3 year old and I played dentist.  She very smartly explained to me that she could see bugs on my teeth because I wasn’t brushing good enough.  What she had to do was going to hurt, but it wouldn’t take long.  She shared that she had tools for boys and girls in blue, purple, and pink and inquired if I preferred girly colors.

My pie is done.  I’m going to go crawl in bed between my two little cuddle bunnies, and I’ll sleep in.  When I finally get up I’m going to make salted caramel mochas for my 16 year old and me.  My son-in-law will probably play a game with the kids if the weather is bad, or he’ll throw a ball around with them outside if it is clear.  He’s so good about playing with the kids.  My pregnant daughter and I will just visit and eat way too much dessert.

Tomorrow should be enjoyable.  No rush.  No obnoxious “accidents.”  No cruel mocking.  No anger that my adult children showed up.

No one seems to have any expectations except to just eat and be together.  What a difference!  I keep thinking I must be forgetting something because this Thanksgiving’s preparations have been so easy.  I must have inadvertently left something off my list.  However, the only things that seem to be off my list are the toxic people who didn’t appreciate our holidays together anyway.

May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!  May you be blessed with peace and comfort and time with those you love….and who love you!