It hit me the other night as I was trying (unsuccessfully) to get to sleep that this was about the time I was originally expecting Ian home from his deployment. Army time doesn’t seem to work like civilian time, so to avoid frustration whenever Ian used to go off to drill for a day and tell me he’d be home at a certain time I would always add two hours and that was usually closer to the truth. If he was away for a matter of weeks I would add two days. For a full deployment I add two months. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised by having Ian back early than feeling resentful and anxious because he’s late. So last year when he left in September I planned on him being gone a year from that point, plus two months to be safe, which put his return around Thanksgiving.
That time line was originally closer to what was scheduled to happen, but then the mass troop withdrawals from Iraq kicked in and Ian ended up coming home earlier than expected. Back in August. Which means we’ve had more than 100 additional days with Ian that I hadn’t planned on. I’ve gotten so used to having him home that I took for granted that he’s here. The concept that we could have lived these past few months with him still deployed kind of shook me up.
I keep thinking about all the additional things Ian would have missed if he were just coming home now. He would not have seen my grandma one more time before she died. He would not have met my cousin’s new baby. He would not have been here for the first day of school, or the girls’ choir concerts, or parent-teacher conferences, or Quinn learning to read. He would have missed Trick-or-Treat which means seeing the kids’ costumes only on this blog instead of watching Mona the Dalmatian bounding ahead in search of candy and carrying Quinn in his blue jay outfit when he was too tired to walk (or fly). Plus I would still be frazzled, my store would still be messy, the gutters would be overflowing with leaves, and the kids would not have been able to do swimming lessons. It would be life during deployment, which is incredibly stressful. I think I’d already blocked out how hard it was because I want that time to be firmly in the past. The idea that by my own calendar I could still be living it kind of hit me in the gut.
I was feeling a little down about this Thanksgiving. We were going to host dinner at our house for friends and my parents, but the friends were able to visit family, and my dad’s health has been giving us all a scare recently so he understandably doesn’t want to travel. With more notice I would have liked to extend an invitation to maybe another family in the area who has someone deployed and could use a hassle free Thanksgiving meal, but at this late date people seem to know what they’re doing. So it’s just our own little family.
That sounded a bit lonely to me at first, but after counting up all the extra days with Ian that I have to be thankful for, I can see this holiday for what it really is. It’s a chance to spend a nice day with my husband and all my children in our home. We will have pumpkin pie for breakfast, I’m going to teach Aden how to make twice baked potatoes, we will have cranberries in the traditional shape of a can because it makes us laugh, and I will cook the green bean casserole that I’m the only one who eats but we have to have because otherwise it’s not really Thanksgiving. I can’t wait!
It’s so easy to focus on what you lack instead of what you’ve got. Especially with the passing of my grandma I’m more keenly aware of how many other people in my life I miss but seldom see. I want more time and I want less distance. Sad roads to go down are easy to find.
But I got extra time with Ian. I’d forgotten about it. The same way we tend to forget that every day is extra time. Thanksgiving with my husband and kids isn’t lonely. It’s the best thing there is. And this year I am extra thankful. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday!
(Pie for breakfast last Thanksgiving in our old house)
(Ian home for Thanksgiving weekend last year)
(Mona and Quinn two years ago eating Thanksgiving dinner in our dining room back when it was our neighbors’ dining room)
(Aden last Thanksgiving with her buddy Buster)
UPDATE: Turns out a friend of mine named Robyn (who also builds violins) and her husband didn’t have a big plan for Thanksgiving, and they agreed to come join us for dinner. It was great, and it felt right because at its heart I believe the holiday is really about sharing. We got to teach them Spite and Malice, and they taught us Kings in the Corner, which was also a lot of fun. Plus we got to play viola duets for a little while, and how cool is that to have each of us playing on instruments we made ourselves? We’ve decided we should try our hands at composing to complete the loop and not need anyone else in the process. Anyway, it was an awesome Thanksgiving. Mona made an amazing paper turkey as a centerpiece, the food came out fine, we turned on the disco ball for awhile, Quinn hid plastic frogs for people to find…. Definitely one of the best Thanksgivings ever. Hope the same was true for all of you!