“You Can Bring Someone With You”
“Just so you know,” Skyspook’s mother says. “If you ever wanted to bring anybody else with you to Thanksmas, you’re completely welcome to. Someone either or both of you are dating.”
Just when I think I can’t love that woman any more.
We’re sitting at her kitchen table. We’ve been trading stories of what’s happened since we last saw her when she gently steers the conversation this way.
“Thank you,” Skyspook says. “I’m not surprised at all to hear you say that, but that’s wonderful. I really appreciate that.”
“If I Have to Explain, You Wouldn’t Understand”
I grew up in a strict Catholic family with a mother obsessed with appearances and reputation. I was a loud, colorful kid who had a habit of saying the wrong things. Embarrassing, attention-getting. Different from other kids. And certainly different than how my mother wanted me to be.
Our relationship was a constant process of my stepping over some invisible line and her pulling me back over it without really telling me why. If I were lucky, there’d be an observation that X or Y was wrong but no explanation. And as I looked around at my sisters and brother, they didn’t have this dynamic with her. Instead, they stayed within the safe zones. I wondered why I was so different from them. I couldn’t even figure out where the safe zone was, let alone stay there.
So I paid extra attention at church. Went to bible study in the evenings. But the more I read, the more confused I became by the myriad contradictions within scripture. The adults around me would laugh and say, “That verse? No one pays attention to that one.”
It seemed so easy for others to pick and choose their incontrovertible truths. So easy that it would have seemed arbitrary — except for the fact that folks in my parish largely agreed on what those were.
No, there was some secret that everyone else knew that I was oblivious to.
It was just like what my older sisters always said to get a rise out of me: “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.”
The Thanksmas Traveler
I tried awfully hard to fit in there, but I could never quite manage it. As the years wore on, I stopped trying to be accepted and set off more on my own. My travels took me to some dark places. And that darkness gave me some of the answers I’d been looking for as a young woman. I broke all of the rules, and some of those transgressions came back and bit me. But others lacked any sort of consequences. And sometimes sinning led to quite positive outcomes.
I stopped searching for global answers and learned to observe. Adopted pragmatism as my compass.
I eventually found my way to Skyspook and his family, people very much like me, 1000 miles from where I’d grown up.
Thanksmas is Skyspook’s big family celebration. As the name implies, we meet up at some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to trade presents, eat a ginormous meal, and express gratitude for everything in our lives.
And every year, whether I say it or not, I feel intense gratitude for them — Skyspook’s family. I’m grateful to finally find a place where I feel like I belong — and where fellow “outsiders” aren’t just tolerated, but openly welcomed.
My book is out!