The Guilt Trip on the Holidays: It Works

My mom, Frankie Ann as she was known to her loved ones, could guilt her children into anything. I was annoyed by that talent for many years. I now am awed by it.

Aggie and I walked downtown today, and my charming tourist town was buzzing with folks who’d just arrived for the holiday. I watched the families coming together over coffee at our local coffee shop, and lunch at the local sandwich shop. Everyone was on their best behavior (it is only Wednesday), and smiles were everywhere.  I love the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the day before the big meal prep starts, when families are arriving, and there isn’t much to do except enjoy each other. You can run errands for the cook, while squeezing in some time for coffee and talk. I literally had to stop myself from pulling up a chair, and getting in on the coffee, conversation, and catching up.

So, how’s college going? Any girls?

How’s the new job? Tell me all about it.

So, you’re pregnant! Do we know if it is a boy or girl? How exciting.

You bought a new house? Oh wow. Show me pictures.

I adore those boots. Where did you get them?

I love that first glow of family togetherness when everyone is excited to see each other. That caught-off-guard feeling of how much you missed one another because life has been too busy to notice until this precise second when you are face-to-face again. And then, there are the hours of talking, laughing and telling stories. Awesome.

But these days I find myself, more often than not, on the other side of an empty table, with no family to catch up with, and my mother’s voice ringing in my ears.

There are lots of reasons for my present alone-ness. Children have moved away, parents have passed away, sisters live far away, and they’re trying to figure out how to gather their families under one roof, which is the theme of this particular post. Getting everyone together. Something I feel should be a offered as major in college for future moms, because it takes such finesse to pull it off.

It’s a strange time.

I fear I have missed a step. I missed the step where my family comes home to my house for the holidays. I have been each of those people at the table catching up over coffee, but one. I was the college student, the new career woman, the excited pregnant mom, the new home owner, and the stylish boot wearer, but I have not been the mom prepping the Thanksgiving meal as my family walks through the door. I have not been that mom with a cup of good coffee, sitting across the dining room table from my children, the night before Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or Easter, or fill-in-the-blank) soaking up their personalities and lives. There’s a good reason why not. I have children (son and daughter-in-law) in the military. (So that is an entire semester of study for the mom major. How to get past the government and corral your kids into one spot.)

Here’s the truth of the holidays for the mother. Every mother on the dang planet wants her children, in-laws, and grandchildren to come to her house for the holidays. Along with a whole host of friends for dessert.

Frankie Ann was unscrupulous about it.  She cared less if she guilted you or forced you, so long as you ended up at her house. Feel free to grumble and complain all the way back to your own house, whiile she tidied and reflected on her delight that we were all together.

For years. I swore I’d never do that to my kids. I’d never guilt them into a holiday trip home, but now, I might reconsider. It worked so fabulously for Mom. I even scolded her over it once, “Give it up, Mom. Debbie (my oldest sister) has 10 kids, who all have spouses, who all have mothers who want them to come to their houses. It’s impossible because of Debbie.” It was nice having a sister with 10 kids. She made a good scapegoat.

My scolding didn’t phase her. She repeated what she always said. “It is important for everyone to be together sometimes.”

This past spring, she sent out an email invite to everyone for Mother’s Day, about 2 months prior to Mother’s Day. It read, “Join me for church and then lunch at Fuddrucker’s on May 11. RSVP. Immediately.” That was sent to 4 daughters, 2 husbands, 17 grandchildren, 5 spouses of grandchildren and assorted boyfriends and girlfriends, and 11 great grandchildren. All but a few accepted, and we were almost all together that day. Here she is with my youngest. I love this picture of them.

Guilt Trip for the Holidays; It Works

Mom and Micah

The church was full of her family and we took up the back section at Fuddruckers. There was lots of picture taking, and lots of hey there’s, and hugs. It was a scene reminenscent of this morning as I watched families giving big hugs across tables covered with coffee cups, highchairs, booster seats, and walkers. Brothers jostled each other, sisters gloated over babies, and the mother? Well, she was in her element. Her family was in town and yes, she had a ton of work to do, turkeys to cook and dressing to make, but she was happy. Dad looked pretty happy, too.

Frankie Ann was in her element. Her family gathered around her and smiles everywhere. It was a good Mother’s Day for her.

So, while I miss my family this Thanksgiving, and am planning my guilt moves for next year’s holiday season (you think I kid), I am so tremendously thankful for May 11th 2014. Sometimes it is important for everyone to be together, because you don’t know if it will be the last time. I am glad Mom ignored me and did just as she pleased, guilt-ing us all into one last Mother’s Day together.

Frankie Ann and her “girls”

Frankie Ann and her “girls

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7 Truthful Things About Me; 7 Being the Perfect Number

I’m sick. After a visit with the grandkids, who were completely healthy, and my son and daughter-in-law (it was the son who was sick), I came home with lethargy and laryngitis. Translated that means, I am in my favorite tights, favorite long, blue sweater, and socks with dog paws on them. The socks can be number one on the ten things you wish you didn’t know about me list, if you like.

So, for kicks, lying in my sick bed, I thought I’d just be truthful. As opposed to being that person that tries so dang hard to appear she has it all together. So, here goes. Seven truthful things about me.

1. I do and I don’t like myself. At almost 55, I can give myself a break on most things, but at the same time, at almost 55, I can see clearly now….the idiotic things I did, and how easy it would have been to do them differently. #1 thing I wish I had done differently: Listen to my mom. Bottom line: she was right. #2 thing I wish I had done differently: not be such a know-it-all. Guess what? Other people (even spouses, even ex-spouses) are right sometimes, or rather, are right a lot of the time.

2. I think about my weight as much as a 19 year old boy thinks about sex. Every morsel of food that goes into my body is measured, not by some food/ounce scale, but by the scales in my mind. Every calorie is counted, every crumb weighed, every carb considered. Its exhausting. #1 reason why this is stupid: it just is.

3. I’m all or nothing. Which would be okay, if the all was in the good spectrum, and the nothing meant avoiding the bad. #1 reason this has proven not to be a good thing: too much wasted time on projects/people that proved futile.

4. I can’t tell a joke, and you have to explain jokes to me. This one needs no further commenting.

5. I don’t always like my kids. In my defense, I did like them when they were little, and I mostly like them now. But there are days, that I just hate having adult kids. If I wasn’t wishing my life away, I’d be begging God to jump the next ten years, and let’s just get to the 30’s. #1 thing I don’t like about adult kids: They don’t listen to their mother (refer to number one to see who they get that from).

6. I am so not a detail oriented person that it is possible I will skip a number in this list. This means, I will miss my exit, I will burn dinner, or forget to pay that bill, or forget your birthday (though I am generous so your make-up gift will be awesome), or just not hear that last instruction. #1 reason why I don’t care that I’m not a detail oriented person: I hate details.

7.  I am horribly fearful.  Honestly. People are always telling me how brave I am, but really, I am not. I don’t mean like afraid of the dark, or monsters. I wish monsters were all there was to be fearful of. No, I’m afraid of being alone. Not like, single-without-a-guy alone, but more like, doing life on my own. Am I smart enough to make good decisions about money, work, houses, kids, health, LIFE? #1 way I deal with this: close my eyes and make a decision, while praying.

Make it 8. I am getting ready to watch Emma (the one with G.Paltrow) for the 10 billionth time. Yes, I do like J.Austen.

So, there’s my 7. How about you?