Traditions No More

Dearest Rachel –

I honestly thought I could do it. I thought I could just get through the details and activities of the Thanksgiving holiday without being ambushed by your loss. I kept myself so busy, between the work in the booth for the Thanksgiving Eve service the night before, and the preparations for the trip less than twenty-four hours from now.

But there are some traditions about Thanksgiving that are supposed to be kept, whether as a church, as the extended family, or as the three – or rather, two – of us that I simply can’t bring myself to participate in this time around… and possibly never again. And it hurts to admit it.

One of the traditions our church has – apart from the existence of the Thanksgiving eve service in the first place – is that they would routinely set up a backdrop for people to have photos taken of them. There would be a chalk slate to write something they were thankful for, and the pictures would be included in the church’s social media account.

This was the backdrop that I saw when I came out of the sanctuary after the service.
For reference, here’s a picture we took of ourselves back in 2019 (needless to say, there wasn’t a Thanksgiving Eve service last year to do this at). The sign indicates that we are were thankful for the time that we would have together going forward. Oh, the things to come that we weren’t aware of.

Needless to say, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything with that. It wasn’t help by the fact that since I was working in the booth, Daniel came separately (in your car, of course), and had already left in order to get dinner for himself. So I would be standing there alone, under the banner marked ‘thankful’ – and at that moment, I had nothing to write down. I suppose I could’ve held up a picture of you on my phone, in gratitude for your having been a part of my life for all those years, but it seemed a bit heavy on the pathos. Besides, I’m supposed to be over this, aren’t I?

Another thing that caught me off guard at church was when I went to greet the folks at the end of the service. They were speaking to John and Lana Parker, who we haven’t seen in years, but who I had just seen you expressing thanks for in your journal from 1997. Obviously, I had to tell him about what I found, and it took everything I had to keep from breaking down as I did so.

Once the folks had left, I found myself talking to Jessica H, who is in town from Phoenix where she and her husband moved upon getting married. She used to be a regular on the praise team back at Des Plaines, which you probably remember. It seems that they might be moving back here to the suburbs of Chicago, but that has yet to be determined. For now, she was working the keyboards on the platform. At any rate, she had asked me how things were going, and how I was coping with the situation. I keep thinking that after ten months, I could keep myself together while talking about this, but the more I go into it, the harder it is to keep steady.

I got myself a few hugs last night, whether I wanted them or not.

Another tradition I had decided to forgo this year were the stuffed mushrooms that I’ve been making for the past… how long has it been? Fifteen, twenty years? Ever since we found that tube of garlic paste at the old Marshall Field’s downtown, and mixed it in with breadcrumbs and lots of provolone cheese. We would fill a cookie sheet with a couple pounds of mushrooms, and they would almost all go every year. Of course, we had more people at our family Thanksgivings in those days.

This year, I just brought a couple of pies, and an appetizer tray of cheese, cold meat and crackers. It was reasonably well received, but they were no stuffed mushrooms.

I noticed that the family didn’t do their usual ‘popcorn thanks’ ritual at the end of the meal. You remember how we all used to take a couple kernels each, and tell everybody what we were thankful for over the course of the past year as we returned each kernel to the bowl. Perhaps it was forgotten in all the change of plans; perhaps they thought it was too painful for me to deal with.

Judging from how I bore up (or rather, failed to bear up) during last night’s service, it was probably for the best.

Finally, as I’m laying in the bedroom, waiting for the dryer to buzz so that I can take everything out, fold it up, and finish most of my packing for tomorrow, I’m realizing another tradition has gone by the boards. Actually, Jenn mentioned it while us guys were all watching the football games; about how you would be lying on the floor, looking through all the ads, trying to determine where to hit for Black Friday. To be sure, most of our Christmas shopping is either done, or Black Friday won’t make any difference, so the fact that it’s not happening is kind of irrelevant. But it’s just another tradition that is going to be no more, and it hurts to acknowledge it.

Even the fact that I will be running around tomorrow doesn’t make much difference, as it’s for such a different reason. I should be looking forward to this – especially since the first of my tests came back negative this morning (although, and this may well be psychosomatic, I’m now feeling the beginnings of an oncoming cold all of a sudden. Wouldn’t that just be my luck) – but I just can’t bring myself to it.

Someday, I suppose, Daniel and I (and maybe, Lord willing, ‘Megumi’) will have our own set of new Thanksgiving traditions. Until then – and I guess I can start referencing Christmas carols now – we’ll just have to muddle through somehow.

Wish us luck, honey; we’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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