Why Is It So Hard to go Home for Thanksgiving
I don't know why it always has to happen this way. Twenty miles out from Mom's, I get sick to my stomach. Not severely. Just slightly. Just enough to make me ask myself why I do this to myself on a regular basis.
Every holiday I make the pilgrimage home. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano. It is my nature to seek out my own kind on sentimental occasions like Christmas, Easter, Flag Day, the third Sunday of any month with an r in its name. OK. I admit it. I like to touch home base. It's a cold world out there to face alone every day. So why the queasy stomach every time I cross the county line heading for home?
Probably because returning to familiar territory is always a reminder that being alone out in the cold world is a choice I made on my own. It certainly isn't what anyone here at home had in mind for me. The scenery screams at me that life could have been so different if I had just stayed in my element. The focal point of the entire valley is the church steeple where other people got married. Huddled around it are the houses other people bought and filled with their grandmother's silver, which their mothers had kept for the day their daughters had homes of their own.
I have a home of my own! No. Not really. It's only a condominium, and it came with a maintenance contract, not a husband. In this town - that doesn't count. Then there is the elementary school just down the block from the church. We all know what that's for, don't we?
In all fairness, I must say Mother has never said a negative word to me about any of this. About a year after graduation she realized I had not gone to college to come out of it a married lady but actually to - can it be true - have a career. About that time my Mother stopped asking me questions. We talked as often as we ever had, but have you ever had a conversation with a person who asks no questions?
I don't know if it was that she no longer knew what sorts of things to ask about, or if she was starting to be afraid of the answers she might get. Mother has always been interested in me, what I'm doing, who my friends are, but this life of mine is something she just can't relate to from her own experience. The choice I freely made for myself was the curse of a young woman in her day.
She only wanted for me the things all mothers want for their daughters. And, yes, she wanted some things for herself. To be the one sitting in the living room of a dear friend with a paper plate full of pastel ribbons on her lap. To wear a long gown to church on a Saturday afternoon and dance with Dad at the VFW Hall. To have a wallet full of pictures she could shuffle through at check-out counters.
But there is more to it than all that. Something I don't think even she is aware of, but I have always suspected. As a girl, as a bride, as a young mother, she had dreams for herself. Some of them came true. But the ones that didn't did not die. She had a daughter. And it was like a gift - a chance that some day she would realize those dreams through her little girl. A reflection of herself. And this time it would all turn out just right. Dreams. When I didn't cherish them and make them my own, then they finally did die. And she grieves. Maybe I grieve a little too.
The queasiness has passed. This is our street. When I turn in the driveway I'll see her face at the kitchen window, watching for me. No one watches for you like your Mother. She could pick me out of a throng of five thousand cap and gown clad graduates. She would be the first one out of the car on Parent's Day looking for the camper in the standard white top and blue shorts all the campers wore. But she'd be looking for the one who belonged to her. I have spotted her first in airports but waited at a distance just to watch her search for me in the crowd, scanning the sea of faces for the one she came to see. Hers. Mine.
And for all the dreams of hers that have died at my hand, I have never seen her find my face and look at me with disappointment. Maybe this visit, Mom, I won't either.