Then the guests arrived (all 21 of them), and things got a little chaotic, mostly due to one little boy. He just has too much pent-up energy and needed to get it out before civility would be required of him at dinner. (He needed a few more hours outdoors, as it turned out.) So the kids big and small headed for the backyard. The rest of us girls did the finishing touches on dinner--that last minute rush to get everything out and keep it hot. Even after 35 years, that part is stressful.
I never want to exclude children from the holiday dinner table but this year we all couldn't fit around it. So we decided to put the youngest (not counting babies) in the kitchen, even moving the table closer to the big table in the dining room so they wouldn't feel left out. Arielle volunteered to supervise and eat with them. Good girl! But our little guy refused to sit down and instead climbed around on his father's lap at the big table and threw silverware. Or else he was under the table like a dog, periodically coming up to try to unseat someone else. The babies were peaceful, amazingly, Joey in his highchair and tiny Jordan in her infant seat--their first Thanksgiving.
After dinner Dominic jumped up and washed ALL the dishes! I don't think I had any energy left to do it, so he was a lifesaver to me. I am grateful for my son! We then had a dessert buffet that I did not have to make, including gluten-free Jewish apple cake baked by Kim! Thanks, kids, for all the yummy treats. The little girls ran off to their private games that involve little toys and Japanese erasers and notes on scraps of paper. Everyone was winding down and getting ready to leave and then we found unwanted guests! Ticks! They must have come in with the kids when they were outside. Some ticks were attached to their hosts, some still strolling about, looking for a good place for a feast. Two days later I broke out from poison ivy. Someone must have brought it in on their clothes because I was never outside. Ticks and poison ivy the end of November! Who would have thought?
At the end of Arielle's party, little Joey fell asleep on Fred's lap and then Fred fell asleep with him. Grandpa. It's a role Fred loves. I walked outside with one of my daughters-in-law, up to the parking lot across the street--our "overflow" parking. It was cold and clear and dark. She strapped the three little ones in their car seats and I kissed them all good-bye and told them I loved them. And in that moment, I realized it was all worth it. The stress and craziness and plain hard work. Thanksgiving night I said to Dominic, "No more! I can't do this." And maybe I won't do it for Christmas. But by next Thanksgiving I'll be rested up. My mother gave up making the big holiday meal years ago. I understand why. This year she called to tell me she would only have my sister with her. They would enjoy their little Cornish hens together, but my mother sounded sad that no one else was coming for dinner. So I will be grateful for my big family who still want to come and gather for the holidays. I'm thankful for new babies to add to the mix and I praise God we were all still here around the table. No chair was empty.
"Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man...Bless our God, O people; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip." Psalm 66.