Not everyone saw the same side of me on Thanksgiving Day this year, because not everyone is perceptive enough to grasp the complexities of being a Fiery/Fragile child. I have one face I show the world (“the best defense is a good offense”), and there is another layer to my personality that I reveal only to my closest confidantes, or those discerning enough to see beyond the veil. Here are two different perspectives of my Thanksgiving this year, one as seen by the masses and the other I generally keep to myself.
1. THE FIERY WARRIOR
Family holidays are an introvert’s worst nightmare. Particularly if you come from a large, loud family. I swear I must be the milkman’s kid.
I had only been at my grandmother’s house for ten minutes when I had to escape to a back room to be still. And quiet. And regain my sanity before re-emerging into the chaos of simultaneous conversations at yelling volume:
“Is the turkey ready?”
“DO THE SWEET POTATOES NEED TO GO IN?”
“Has anyone seen Kevin?”
“Are you going to drink red or white?”
“Here, take this out to the car.”
“HAS ANYONE SEEN KEVIN?!”
To make matters worse, I somehow didn’t prepare myself for the fact that Thanksgiving this year fell one week before my brother’s wedding. And his fiancé is here in town, meeting some of the extended family for the first time. Not good news for someone trying to forget about a certain wedding of her own that got called off earlier this year. Almost every conversation (once we got all the food on the table and everyone settled) was about the wedding. Awesome.
“Are you guys getting excited?” What a dumb question. Why even bother asking this question? Even of the answer was no (which is unlikely), it’s not like either of them would announce that at Thanksgiving dinner.
“Tell me about your bridesmaids! Who did you pick?” Another dumb question. You’ve never met any of the fiancé’s friends, so hearing their names will mean absolutely nothing to you.
“Where are you guys going to be living? Do you have all of your stuff moved in yet? Are you going to get a pet?” Just stop already.
Worse yet, my aunt hung a banner over our Thanksgiving table that said in sparkly lettering, “She Said Yes!” You’re about eight months late to the game. And isn’t today Thanksgiving? I thought I had another week of preparation before I had to start dealing with all of this wedding brouhaha.
What was that post I wrote on Thanksgiving Day? Oh yeah. Being thankful. Bah humbug.
2. THE FRAGILE WOUNDED
I had a slow, quiet morning alone in my apartment this Thanksgiving. I prepared my assigned dish, sweet potato casserole, and put it in the oven to bake before hopping in the shower.
Once in the shower, I allowed myself to cry, happy for my brother and sad for myself at the same time. I prayed in my closest as I picked my outfit for the day. I prayed that I would have the strength I needed to get through the inevitable wedding-centric conversations that would surround me all day long.
I carefully applied my makeup and chose my jewelry, wanting to look nice in front of my fashionable future sister-in-law. Then I drove alone to my grandmother’s house where we’ve had Thanksgiving at 12:00 noon every year for as long as I can remember.
I knocked on the front door, set down my casserole, and had been standing in the kitchen for no more than 30 seconds before the wedding discussions began all around me. It was suffocating, like their words were causing my chest to constrict.
I went in a back room to lie down and give myself a pep talk. “You can do this.”
I made it through the meal, although I didn’t lead the family in prayer as I usually do, and one of my aunts commented multiple times that I was being too quiet.
After Thanksgiving dinner, I went to a back room again to try to gather my strength and center myself. I grew up in a military family where we weren’t allowed to say “I can’t”, and our family motto was “No wimps.” But after nearly an hour of sitting alone in the back room pretending to nap, I admitted defeat. I walked slowly to my grandmother’s kitchen, gathered my dishes, hugged my grandmother goodbye with a soft “thank you” and made my way to the front door.
Only my daddy noticed my quiet movements, and he came over and offered to walk me out. I started crying as soon as we made it outside, and for the first time in twenty years, I said quietly, “I’m sorry, Daddy. I tried. I just can’t today.”
And he hugged me.