When I first got the text from my ex-wife that she wanted to host Thanksgiving at her new apartment I had mixed feelings. I was glad that I would have the opportunity to have all of the kids in one room for a change and was glad that my ex and I get along well enough for such a get-together to be palatable. What troubled me was her history of freaking out on Holidays.
From the beginning of our relationship holidays were a problem for her. I could never put my finger on why they were so difficult. For the first years of our marriage we almost exclusively went to our families houses. Our only stress factors were travel, getting the kids ready and dealing with her mother. Admittedly, that was a big one. Her relationship with her mother was contentious for as long as I had known her. Her mother was always jabbing at her, it sometimes seemed that she was sitting at the table with a voodoo doll, sticking pin after pin and laughing as her daughter imploded. But even when the mother wasn’t there, my wife was still highly stressed and visibly agitated.
Once we owned our first house we took on the task of hosting the holidays. Given the age of our children and the logistics (naps, feedings, etc.,) of taking them out, and the size of our house it made sense to have people come over. Knowing that she would be stressed I took upon myself as much of the work as I could. I did all of the cooking, as much cleaning as possible and tried to control as many of her stressors as I could. I was naïve to think that I could control that which I did not understand. Her stressors were a bigger enigma than I could ever imagine. This would become evident when my mother dropped a tray of cupcakes in the driveway one Christmas morning. My wife freaked on her, yelling that we would now be overrun by ants. When I told her that we don’t get ants in December, she turned her wrath on me for questioning her. The day was ruined before it started.
It never got better. Every Holiday was stressful for all of us. The stress of walking on eggshells was too much for everyone. I just learned to deal with it.
So you can see why the prospect of her hosting gave me pause.
I offered to bring some of the meal. She asked me to make the Turkey. I gladly agreed. She was confident that she could handle the rest of the feast.
Thanksgiving morning I awoke at 5 AM. I crammed the birds ass with stuffing and put it in the oven with a schedule of leaving the house by 10:30 AM. I pulled it off and pulled into her development at 12:30. The turkey was still hot. I went in.
Despite her request that we all be there by 12:30 I was the only one on time. I offered to help her in the kitchen but she insisted that she had it under control. Her goal was to serve the appetizers at 1 and the meal at 1:30. It would not work that way, everyone was late. Amazingly, she held it together. Once my oldest daughter and her boyfriend, my oldest son and her mother (yes, her mother was invited as well) arrived, the meal was ready, getting cold on the table while we had the appetizers but she kept her cool, only to a lesser degree. To lessen her anxiety, I snuck into the kitchen and began putting items in the oven to keep them warm. She protested but I insisted that it was my way of helping. She reluctantly acquiesced.
The meal went off without a hitch. My bird was a big hit, her culinary creations (she has never claimed to be a cook) were delicious and the chemistry at the table was magical. I was in heaven having my amazing family together. There is nothing in this world that I miss more than seeing my kids every day. I savored every moment of it. We did our family tradition of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for and I was happy to watch my children do theirs. They never liked it when they were younger, they thought it was silly. But now, they get it. They had some great offerings as to what they were thankful for. When it came my turn I simply stated that I was grateful to be there, on the right side of the dirt, surrounded by everything that matters to me in life. Normally loquacious, resulting in groans and eye rolls, mine was short and sweet.
The cleanup went well. We took a bunch of pictures. We drank coffee and ate dessert. We watched football. We played with the dogs. The conversation flowed. It really was a magical day. When it was time to leave, I couldn’t give everyone a big enough hug. I even hugged my ex-wife. I was proud of her. It may sound silly, but after all of the nightmare stories from holidays of the past it was exciting to have a day without incident.
It was bittersweet in a way. My ex looks great, she seems to be making a real effort to get better emotionally and seems almost happy. Part of me wonders why she couldn’t do those things while we were together. I will always wonder if she is better off without me. But at the end of the day I want what I have always wanted, I just want her to be happy.