There was the year everyone got stuck in the snow trying to drive up the hill to get to our house.
There was the year no one wanted to play the game I thought would be so much fun – but they played anyway.
There was the year I had chickenpox and had to watch my brother and cousins play outside without me.
There was the year I was on the South Beach diet and I faithfully substituted ricotta cheese, flavored with pumpkin, for pumpkin pie. (Not as bad as it sounds.)
There was the year Aunt Dory couldn’t make the gravy because she had had a glass of champagne - and that was enough to do her in.
Random memories of big family gatherings. Some as a child, usually on the farm in Iowa with grandparents and my aunt and uncle and cousins. Some as a grownup, often at our “big house on the hill”, as my father-in-law used to call it.
Today I live alone and waking up on Thanksgiving morning, with no need to feed people or set the table, or even get out of my bathrobe, I allowed myself a bit of a pity party.
Before you start feeling sorry for me. Don’t.
I am loved by family near and far. Sure my ex-husband has moved on, but still… I have the best friends anyone could ask for. And my life is rich with meaningful things to do and powerful connections with people. Besides I’ll be joining some of those amazing friends in an hour or two and there will be real pie.
But this morning – during the pity party – when I was feeling down and lonely - I reminded myself of what I tell the seniors that I sing with each week. Yes, I often hand out free advice along with the songbooks.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” I tell them. Now there’s a good one I thought. So, after I had a one-minute cry, I gave my dog the egg and toast I no longer wanted and I actually forced myself to smile. The egg and toast made him really happy and that actually gave me a reason to smile. “Turn your frown upside down.”
OK – that worked for a bit. But I felt the sadness creeping back.
Reach out and touch - I mean text - someone. I didn’t want to call people and interrupt their holiday. But I knew that telling my friends and family how thankful I am for them would fill my heart with good feelings. This not only gave me something to do for a good half hour but I could feel it helping me sustain happy thoughts. A small message can mean a lot.
Step three in ending the “pity party” was to put on some music. Why I didn’t think of this first, heaven only knows! I started with a sentimental song that let me wallow in my loneliness for about 3 minutes and 40 seconds. (In case you don’t know, that’s the typical length of a song on the radio. This falls under the category of “free trivia”, as opposed to “free advice”.)
I then carefully chose a CD that I had purchased at an amazing concert I attended this fall. Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy play Cape Breton fiddle music. Talk about lively and uplifting! It raised my spirits right away and had the added bonus of reminding me of my friend who had invited me to the concert and what fun we had.
The frown turned upside down, the messages to friends, and most of all the music – all helped transform my “pity party” into a day of thankfulness and happiness.
This has been a day of sweet memories and reflections and a good lesson for me to “practice what I preach.”
PS. Did I mention that it’s raining today? No worries. As the song goes “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella”.
PPS. I’m still in my bathrobe.