I woke up early Thanksgiving morning and headed to work. I was in Catering and Events at the time, and part of my job was to hand out the Thanksgiving meals people had ordered from us. If you have to work on Thanksgiving, this is the way to do it. Getting to be the friendly face that passes over the Thanksgiving turkey, sides, and desserts that a family will gather together to eat later that day. The management team showed up early, put together the boxes of food, and by the time the parade had started we were in business. By noon we were out of turkeys and I headed home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband. He wanted to head to his family’s for the holiday. Since I had to work, he agreed to wait on me and we would travel the next day and spend the rest of the weekend in his hometown.
I knew the situation wasn’t ideal. In a perfect Norman Rockwell type world, no one would ever have to work on any weekend or holiday. Families could travel easily to each other and basque in love and gratitude. But if you’re expecting that to be the reality of life, you’re even more naïve than I am. To make up for the fact that we were having a rather untraditional Thanksgiving, I had made a reservation at his favorite steakhouse (please keep in mind that I am a vegetarian). We’d still have a fun meal together and then we could decorate our little apartment for Christmas, which had become our tradition. We had spent the last couple of years gathering Christmas decorations that would fit in our tiny home. We collected ornaments for our tree everywhere we went. By this point the tree had become a lovely reminder of the past adventures of our relationship. I found so much joy in turning this space into our own winter wonderland.
When I got back he was still in bed, which was fine. We had some time before we needed to leave for dinner. I was a bit tired myself, from getting up early, so I curled up on the couch for a quick nap. I could hear the commentary from the Westminster Dog Show in the background as I drifted in and out of sleep. Soon I was shaking my husband to wake up. It was time to head downtown. We dressed accordingly, took the subway towards Rockefeller Center, and immediately we were engulfed in New York City holiday magic. I stopped to take some photos of the oversized ornaments, lights, wreaths. It felt special. The way the beginning of the holiday season is supposed to feel…the possibility of love is around every corner.
Dinner started well. I was so proud of myself for thinking up a special meal for us. Reservations in New York City on Thanksgiving can be hard to come by, but I’d managed to snag us a good time slot at a restaurant my husband loved. Not too shabby. To the outside world I’m sure we looked like a typical New York couple enjoying their holiday. I felt comfort in that knowledge. At least we looked normal. We ordered. Small talk. The food arrived. We started eating. Then my husband, in all his wisdom, thought this would be the most opportune moment to remind me yet again that he didn’t love me. When he looked at me he felt nothing. He wasn’t sexually attracted to me. I almost choked on my asparagus. I felt myself start to tear up. Please, not here. Not at this very lovely restaurant in front of our poor waitress who has to serve uppity New Yorkers and tourists on Thanksgiving. I asked for a lifeline. I implored him to please leave it alone. Just give me this meal. I didn’t want to get emotional. Later. Anywhere but here. Any time but now.
As soon as I stepped foot back into our apartment I began unpacking the Christmas decorations. This is a bit of a chore. I’m sure it’s that way in everyone’s home. Climbing on step stools, crawling under the bed, rearranging boxes; but the finished product typically makes the whole thing worth the effort. My husband laid on the couch while I struggled to make space for our tree. He fell asleep while I unwrapped our ornaments. Our memories. Our life. “Come on babe, don’t you wanna help decorate?” I asked. “No.”, his voice started to rise. “I think it’s ridiculous that you insist on this every year. What’s the point? I hate it. I’ve always hated it. It’s silly and stupid and there isn’t enough space. What’s wrong with you?”
I refused to push the matter. I let him sleep on the couch. I tried to be as quiet as possible as I hung our stockings. I didn’t make a peep as I set up the nativity scene. He couldn’t hear the tears falling down my face as I put one ornament after another on our tree. I gazed at the lights illuminating the bobbles. Over seven years of remembrances starred back at me. And then a tiny thought crept into my mind…how do you let go of seven years? I didn’t know if my heart would ever be strong enough to say goodbye. To move forward alone. To put away those ornaments knowing that I may never see them again.
Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.