“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.” – Edward Kennedy
There was no kids table this year.
I liked that.
My parents decided to add onto their dining room table by extending its length with a folding table that the kids could sit at. It was nice to have all sixteen of us from age 5 to 66 sitting at one table.
We started our meal with our usual question to the children:
“What are you thankful for?”
The burden of answering this question – honestly – typically falls on the first respondent. After that all others tend to copy the previous answer. Regardless, it is cute and I believe it is a good exercise to get our children to realize how fortunate they are.
We had answers that ranged from being thankful for the food, for everyone being together to the New England Patriots. My own son, the youngest child in our family, said with the sweetest most sincere voice:
“I am very thankful that everyone could be here with us today.”
While the response had been heard previously there was something deeply sincere in his five year old voice that made the entire table utter a loud “Awwww.”
The food was somewhat cold by the time we got to actually eating but regardless it was excellent.
What was not so excellent was when family storytelling began.
My oldest son adores hearing stores of Grandpas childhood in Poland, my own childhood, family memories. Some started sharing stories and everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves.
Suddenly, my oldest son stands up and decides he has a story to share. All eyes on him, we listen.
“Oh, oh, Uncle John. Mommy told me about the wet dreams you had when you were a child!”
Yes. At this point I want to die. At the very least I want to grab the bottle of Riesling or Chivas in front of me, slice open a vein and begin an IV line. I am quite confident my family is not going to truly appreciate the fact that my son is a pre-teen and we have recently been discussing how his body will change and what will happen to him in his puberty years.
Privately, in the confines of my own home, I am quite proud of the openness with which my son and I can discuss this stuff. Publicly, I suddenly realize I forgot to share that fine print with my son.
“DO NOT DISCUSS WET DREAMS AT THE THANKSGIVING TABLE.”
The table gasps. I quickly spin my head toward my father and mother and see them alternating between amusement and horror.
Not exactly Thanksgiving dinner conversation.
My siblings and their children continue the laughing. My poor brother (the wet dreamer) is shocked into silence. My darling younger sister tries her best to change the subject. My son has that “did I say something wrong?” look on his face.
I urge him to sit down, continue eating, and talk about something else.
As conversation begins to turn to something more palatable, my 12 year old nephew raises his hand and screams:
“Well, I can honestly say I haven’t had a wet dream yet”
The laughter begins again. I reach for a knife to get that IV line going.
My sister points a finger at her children (the only brood yet to pipe up about their own nocturnal emissions) and says “My children better keep their thoughts to themselves”.
At this point, my father does indeed become annoyed and somehow, by the grace of someones god, the conversation gets dropped.
Dinner was followed by the consumption of my sisters amazing baked delights, more conversation (of the cleaner variety), picture taking, talking and eventually a visit from the local PD after a drunk neighbor backed his truck into my mothers car.
I know everyone had a good time. I saw the look on my mothers face as the evening drew to a close and she scanned the room and admired her own four children and their children. She was happy.
The day after Thanksgiving my mother sent an email to all of us thanking us for celebrating at her house, reinforcing the value of family and highlighting how much she and my father enjoyed having everyone there.
My heart ached a bit at that statement.
Everyone was not there, Mom.
My daughter wasn’t there. You may have enjoyed having all your children there but I will never experience that. I wonder what that feels like, Mom?
Everyone was not there.
While my pre-teen son ponders wet dreams and my mother lives her dreams of having all her children under the same roof, I am left dreaming of a daughter lost to adoption that I may never get to share a meal with.