Next we moved in, a lazy fashion, toward stuffing the turkey and getting it in the oven. Most of the big work was done the day before - side dishes and pies and table setting. I don't want anything about this day to be hurried or full.
Late afternoon we pour a glass of wine, and wander out to the patio by the pool. One last hour of quiet conversation before the festivities swing into high gear.
As we come in the back door they are coming in the front. High voices and squeals from grandkids as they spy Lily; family and friends and a stranger thrown in for good measure. Hugs are given, dishes are offered, jackets taken, and the kitchen is full to the brim in one fell swoop.
And I love it. All of it.
We gather around the table, hold hands and Cub Sweetheart prays for us, puts words to the thoughts of Thanksgiving we all have in our hearts, and for one minute there is only the sound of his voice, soft and slow as he takes the time to say what is on his heart, this man of few words.
Then it's a rush for food, grabbing plates and filling them, talking over each other, laughter and squeals and on it goes in a wonderful, wonderful way. For two solid hours the table is more than full of people and conversation and family stories that have been shared before, and will be again, because there's richness in hearing them again and again.
I watch a few around our table, four of the ten adults slide into an observer's role. They listen, and say very little. They're engaged but quiet. Resting in the midst of it all.
When it's all said and done, the little ones have had all they can take, eaten nothing and shed half their clothes as little ones tend to do, because pants get in the way of eating and playing, don't you know?, then we all head back to the kitchen. We clean up in frenzy, and I'm thankful for all the helping hands. Within minutes there is no sign Thanksgiving ever happened, except behind the doors of two refrigerators.
They're all out the same door they came through only hours before, full and happy. Some are headed to a local theater to catch a late movie, some to go home and climb in bed as quick as they can, and some are off for all-night shopping, the thought of which horrifies me.
I had a conversation with Cub Sweetheart only a few days before about all the holiday hubbub. He told me about a talk he heard on public radio: Why the holidays are hard for introverts by Sophia Demling. It's not an issue of shy or not, loud or quiet, it's what fills and drains the tank for each of us.
I've realized over the years that our family of five has only one true, true extrovert - our middle daughter. A couple more have married in, and a few have been produced through three marriages. I fall near the middle of the scale. How introverted or extroverted I am generally depends on the situation. I remember meeting girlfriends for coffee and going away worn out. I loved being with them, but after I left there was nothing in me that needed to be with people for awhile. I don't think my more extroverted girlfriends ever understood this - a need to recharge after emptying out from being with people. I am generally NOT a quiet person, I love being with people, and gathering and festivities and celebrating life, but afterwards I need books and quiet and soaks in the tub and a lot of alone time. A few of my friends leave planning the next get-together! Cub Sweetheart has a much smaller need than me to be with people to begin with, and when he does he's completely worn out afterwards. He's happy to do small talk with strangers, but if he has to hold up the bulk of conversation with people - even those he knows well - he's ready for some serious down time afterwards. I wish I'd understood this twenty years ago. He does too.
Last night at dinner we talked about Black Friday Shopping. The idea of going without sleep, standing on sidewalks with hoards of strangers, waiting for doors to open so we can run in and grab DVD plays for 50% off, coming home with a car full of presents that need to be wrapped and stored away before I've even thought about putting up a tree - it all sounds completely overwhelming.
Last year the only gift I asked for was homemade pot holders, which makes me sound 100 years old, but I actually use them almost every single day. They were sewn by our definitely introverted daughter, in the quiet of her sewing room, where she was possibly hiding out after a day too full of people and noise and such. There was nothing on my wish list last year that someone needed to stay up all night and stand in line for. At least I hope not. There isn't this year either.
I recently had someone mention a book to me, 'Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking', by Susan Cain. I already owned it. This next year I'm actually going to read it. I'm thinking I'll start it on January 1, my all-time, hands-down favorite day of the year. When the holidays are over, the cooking is all done and leftovers abound in the fridge, there's nothing that needs decorating, and everyone has headed back home, and the only sound in our house is the background noise of a parade. I do love, love seeing the floats decorated with flowers, all the kids on their dads' shoulders, watching. I love seeing life celebrated, but I wouldn't actually enjoy being there in the middle of it all. I'd much rather be home, on my sofa in pajamas with our slip of a little grey puppy beside me.