(A leftover from Thanksgiving. But I like it, so I’ll post it here.)
The world shifted late Thursday night.
It happened as I was getting into bed after a wonderful, joy-filled, food -stuffed family Thanksgiving at my house. It happened when I realized that I was a different person going to bed from the one I was when I woke up in the morning. It happened quietly and without fanfare (shouldn’t the shifting of a world be accompanied by at least a “ta-da”?) although when I realized that it happened, I’m sure I heard a low roar inside my head. It happened as I realized that I was now the Mamma.
Missing my large and boisterous family has occupied a good amount of my time over the past few years, especially around the holidays. My memories of holiday dinners are so vivid that I can hear, smell and taste them – so many people jammed into my Grandma Pasqua’s house that there were never enough spaces to disappear into. And the noise was deafening. Everyone talking – shouting – at once. Even sitting down to eat didn’t quiet the chaos. But the food – oh my, the food. Turkey was a secondary nod to the adopted country; the star of the show was always my mom’s Holiday Soup, her homemade ravioli, or my Aunt’s lasagna. But whatever we had on the table, it was always the table in Grandma’s house. And when we finished there, we headed off to Grandma Berarducci’s house to do it all over again. Having had one huge meal already was no excuse. Grandma Berarducci made the best homemade spaghetti on earth. Bar none. And her sauce was heavenly. I don’t remember even having a turkey there. I’m sure there was one, but I was too focused on the spaghetti. And there were cousins my age at Grandma Berarducci’s. We always slipped outside for a great game of hide-and-seek if the weather was good. If not, we just made do inside the tiny house. It was easy to hide among all the adults, as there was almost no room to move.
Eventually the holiday celebrations moved to my mom’s house as grandparents passed or grew too old to work that hard. The crowds were smaller, but no less noisy. Family all around me, coming home to Mom’s for a day or two. Then Dad died, and it seemed that Mom didn’t have the same enthusiasm for family dinners. But still she did it – until she passed, too.
So to me, holidays always meant being at someone else’s house. For a while, my mother-in-law and I traded off dinner duties – I’ll take Thanksgiving, you take Christmas. But for the past few years, I’ve hosted both Thanksgiving and Christmas. My son’s girlfriend has even brought her mom and siblings along, which at first seemed a little odd to me. Didn’t they have their own family to take care of? I have enjoyed every frustrating, greasy, sticky, panicky-for-the-underdone-turkey minute of it, but the undercurrent of longing for the holidays of my childhood gnawed at the center of the celebration. By the end of the evening there was always a hole that couldn’t be filled by anything other than being at Grandma’s again. But after everyone went home or went to bed this Thanksgiving, it occurred to me – quietly, whispering – that the new center of the holiday universe was my home. My dinner, my cooking, my table. I was – AM – now the Mamma. How could I not recognize the shifting of the earth? Did it not occur to me that the reason my son’s girlfriend’s family came to my – MY – holiday celebrations is that, there in my home, they found family? There is immense comfort in that for me.
And, oddly, that realization has started to fill the hole.