The early Black Friday sales are starting again and I can’t help but be a little annoyed at the creeping in of holiday shopping on a family holiday. Perhaps I am more sensitive than most because of my past Thanksgiving experiences. Just a few years ago I worked every Thanksgiving instead of staying home with my family and one year a great tragedy befell my community and changed the way I thought about holidays and thankfulness forever.
Three years ago I was a full-time working mom. I spent almost two hours a day in the car commuting to my job leaving my daughter in daycare for almost nine hours. Every morning I dropped her off and felt guilty, when I picked her up I felt guilty again knowing I had missed out on her young milestones. At the same time I couldn’t afford to quit my job.
The day before Thanksgiving my daughter left for school ecstatic, knowing she had a Thanksgiving party. She donned a turkey shirt, striped tights and orange and green hair ribbons. Many other kids in class had moms who were stay at home or had flexible schedules and would come in and join the party. I never had that luxury and would hear her stories of the parties later and lament being left out.
I knew she would be excited after her party and I couldn’t wait to see her. I remember closing my computer an hour before the end of the work day, determined to pick her up early as a surprise.
When I stepped out of my door I was quickly stopped by an employee, “we have an emergency,” they said. “And you are the on-call manager.” I was always the Thanksgiving on-call manager.
I reluctantly went back to my office, turned the computer back on and did not wrap up the emergency for another hour and a half. The sun was setting and daycare was going to close in exactly 45 minutes, the same amount of time it took me to drive there.
I called my husband, hoping he could beat me to the daycare, but his phone had died and I went straight to voicemail.
I was going to be late. I wound through back roads, trying to avoid heavy traffic with my daughter on my mind. I wondered what it would be like to be a mom at home with her kids. Enjoying them when they woke up, having lazy days in our pajamas. Not having to worry that you will miss pick up and disappoint your child.
Just a few turns away from the school and the traffic was getting thick. I missed a light two times and when I finally got through and checked my clock I was five minutes late.
I pulled up to the school and saw that all of the lights were off and my daughter and her teacher were waiting by the entrance, with their coats on. My daughter was in tears. I had never been so late. Everybody else had been picked up early and she was alone for the last two hours, even the early pick-up I had envisioned would have made me the last parent at school.
The next morning I had to get up at 7:00 a.m. and go to work again, leaving my family alone for most of the holiday. I cried on the drive in.
That was the last Thanksgiving I worked.
The next Thanksgiving Eve, on the very highway we traveled, at around the same time we would have been on it a young lady and her grandmother were leaving a gymnastics class. The two were on the highway that runs by my house unaware that down the road a man in a yellow sports car was speeding through traffic at speeds over 100 miles per hour. He sped up on their car and without slowing slammed into them ending the young girl’s life and seriously injuring her grandmother. I could hear the sirens from my house. In the days to come I would see pictures of the little girl and the wreckage on the news. She had brown hair, like my daughter, and a sweet smile. It was hard not to internalize the loss. The nature of the tragedy and the proximity to Thanksgiving made the entire community hug our kids a little tighter and added an extra helping of thanks to those of us who were safe and home on that day.
I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had been on that road that night, still working.
The next morning, the first Thanksgiving I would spend with my family in years, we lazed around in our P.J.s and watched the Thanksgiving parade. We had an all day cook-a-thon and were visited in the afternoon by friends who brought pie. It was exactly the day I imagined I would have if I stayed at home. And while not everyday is pajamas and parades, some of them are and I am so thankful for the life I am gifted with. I am thankful that I get to spend my holidays with my children. You will not find me fighting at an early Black Friday sale for a discount toaster. Instead I will be spending my holiday in my warmest pajamas, making rolls from scratch and hugging my children as tightly as I can.
I am thankful for all that I have had and even for my past experiences. When I worked I have to be thankful that I had a good job in a recession, the next year I was thankful that I was safe at home when I could have been in harms way and this year I am thankful for gaining perspective on what is really important to me, spending time with my loved ones.
What are you Thankful for this year?
Thankful craft idea: To help your kids get into the spirit of thanks you could put together a thankful bag. Find an autumn colored bag and place a few candy corns inside, tie it with a ribbon and a card which says, “You must give thanks for something in your life-before you eat each candy corn.” Try a piece a day with your children in the days leading up to the holiday.