“Eat, Drink, Be Merry and Give Them Back”

Posted by mwallach on November 27, 2011 in Happy Holidays, My Kids |

Dear That’s Life,

Thanksgiving is honestly one of my favorite holidays. I enjoy the preparation, the table decorations and the gathering of friends and loved ones. Unlike all of the other holidays I celebrate, the qualifications for partaking in this one are simply that I am an American. Faith and religion aside, roasting a turkey and sitting down to this meal means I am proud of the country in which I live, appreciating that what joins us together on this day is a love of everything, “red, white and blue,” not how one spends his Saturdays or Sundays.

Like any other neurotic homemaker and host, I spend time poring over cooking magazines, cookbooks and internet sites searching for the newest twist on holiday favorites. And like other holidays, this one has traditions of its own. A friend of mine goes to her aunt’s home where they dress up like pilgrims and Indians (Native Americans?). Many families have a friendly football game or at least enjoy watching those broadcast on national television. Growing up, our Thanksgiving came sans the big game, as it was banned. Seen as a distraction from family time, we were all prohibited from turning it on. A horrible rule, it prompted two responses. To begin, we had to secretly watch behind my mother’s back. Getting caught was never any fun. Secondly, however, it prompted a new tradition in our own homes: the game is now watched in full view of all, on the largest television in the house, in clear defiance of our upbringing. Like petulant children, we need to show that we have changed the rules. Years later, although we are adults with children of our own, my cousins still call on Thanksgiving to smugly ask if we have finally been given permission to watch the game. That phone call, too, has become an honored tradition.

Family time is coveted, although after a certain amount of togetherness, people look forward to returning to their own homes. As someone once explained, the beauty about being a grandparent, aunt or uncle is that you get to play with the children and enjoy their giggles. When the giggles turn to screams, however, or diapers need to be changed, fun time with the kids ends as the children are returned to their parents. They have had their own share of parenting over the years, it was explained. Once those days are over, they are not missed. Have fun, bring them toys, and give them candy – but give them back when they’re bouncing off the walls when their lollypops hit the floor.

Logistics, unfortunately, did not allow for all of us to join together for Thanksgiving. As such, we spent time with some of my family last week. Almost like a pre-Thanksgiving meal, the only thing we missed was the football. My father enjoyed spending some one-on-one time with my son who, out of my six children, is the only one who looks like me. Since I resemble my father, it is three generations of the same face. My father’s baby pictures look just like my son. While it is fun to have a child who seems to be a “mini-you,” except when I feel I am yelling at myself, it can get a little freaky when the three of us are in the same room.

My children all have specific traits that can be attributable to a particular side of the family. Down to their sleeping patterns or affinity for peanut butter, we know who got what from whom. Those who excel at mathematics receive that strength most directly from my husband, while their creativity comes from me. Before my eldest was born, I joked with my husband that if we had a daughter who resembled him but had my (original) coloring, she could be a clone to his mother. Lo and behold, the two are now spitting images of each other. When our next child was born and I was faced with more offspring who looked nothing like me, I did what any other sane woman would do: I dyed my hair to match her color. For years I would be asked, “Does she get her hair from you?” to which I’d respond, “Of course she does.” (Wink, wink.)

Only a number of years later did I get my own clone, and a pretty close replica is he. His personality, however, comes directly from my husband. Although our son often sounds like an 80 year old curmudgeon, as I have described in previous columns, his dry sense of humor and impeccable wit are traits he does not get from me. While some of what he says seems to be lifted right out of my husband’s mouth, even if the words are not his, the tone certainly is.

My son and father walked together Saturday afternoon, the little boy enjoying a lollypop as they went. Inadvertently, he dropped the candy from his hand, landing it in a pile of dirt on the ground. He picked it up, tried to wipe it off, but quickly realized his efforts were in vain. As a result, however, his hands became incredibly sticky. Unlike most children who would wipe their hands on their shirt or pants in an effort to get them clean, my son used my father’s pants as a napkin. Confused, and slightly annoyed, my father called my son out on the offense.

“Why did you just wipe your sticky hands on my pants?” asked the grandfather of his grandson. A brief stare down between the two began, but there was no match. “What?” said the boy, his response laced with sarcasm. “I should get MY pants dirty?”

Ahhh…. So this would be just about the time to give that kid back to his parents…

As Seen in the South Shore Standard Nov 2011

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