The woman behind me in Kings tossed her groceries onto the conveyor belt, apologizing to the cashier. “I usually make everything myself. But this year, my father is sick and I’m buying.” The young woman scanning the prices smiled. Like a knowing hairdresser, she seemed as if she’d heard all this before; she was happy to serve as this customer’s confession booth.
I turned to the frazzled woman, who seemed embarrassed that I heard her lament. “There’s no room for guilt in your life,” I told her, quoting a friend of mine who had enlightened me with that motto just a few days ago.
“Yes, I know,” the woman said, explaining in more detail why she wasn’t making every last scrap of the Thanksgiving meal. I heard the saga: one son going to his girlfriend’s family; another son and husband opting to stay home, and her ill father and mother all alone two states away. Almost sounded like a reciting of “This Little Piggy.”
It’s easy to tell someone else to not feel guilty. That doesn’t mean I believe it. Guilt weighs me down daily, particularly when it comes to my parents, who also live two states away. I don’t see them enough. My children don’t see them enough. They can’t travel the way they used to. I worry about them. I wish we were closer. And to top it off, we’re not going there Thanksgiving.
My children voted to have the holiday at our house. They don’t see each other often; they wanted to just be together. My second son and daughter haven’t met their new niece, born in September. “We’ll create our own traditions,” one daughter-in-law said, trying to assuage my guilt.
So home it is.
And yes, I’m making 95% of the meal myself. I’m enjoying finding the recipes and tailoring the menu to my family’s tastes. Roasted sweet potatoes replacing ones drizzled in honey. Two cans of cranberry sauce and my homemade spicy cranberry chutney instead of my mom’s soupy sauce. (I always loved it but no one in my family did.) And we’ll eat around 4 instead of two.
Yet, the guilt pursues me. My three siblings, their spouses, my two nephews and four nieces will be at my parents. My kids won’t see their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Jobs, travel, family, colleges in far-flung states, and life keep the 24 of us, (three under 2 years old), busy and apart.
“Oh well. There are other meals,” the lady in Kings said, as she rolled her cart out the door.