The most important part of Thanksgiving dinner has always been the people seated around the table. Though pie is surely a close second.
On the eve of this Thanksgiving, I’m feeling thankful for those around my table.
Two months ago our Cope sailed away on schooner Roseway. That was weird. Interesting how the whole family dynamic shifted.
My friend, Lindsey, who sailed the ocean blue many many years ago, nodded her head at the strangeness. “Yeah, and she’s the oldest of your kids. She’s your captain. Your captain is missing.”
Yeah, that was right. Our captain was missing!
In the end, it wasn’t all bad. 1st mate, Nellie Mak, had to start high school without her. I was sad about this fact, but many others thought it terrific; the boy would have to navigate high school on his own. And he did just fine.
The best part of having someone gone is realizing how much you like having them around.
Brynne was particularly excited about taking over the captain’s sleeping quarters. She got busy right away, cleaning and organizing all the captain’s drawers, throwing out what she deemed “nonessential junk.” (isn’t that thoughtful? ha :). She made the bed, fluffed the pillows…and then slept in her sister’s room exactly once. It just wasn’t the same.
And the girl was happy. She saw the world in a way she has never seen it before. Lucky! She learned many a sailing skill. For instance, how and where to barf over the side of a boat is an art form: “Not on the high side and definitely not into the wind!” She sailed in stormy seas and calm waters. She had spiritual experiences and felt close to the divine. She witnessed almost magical creatures. Best of all? She missed us, too.
She wrote home often (we were lucky!) while being tossed and turned by the waves. She understood what a big deal it was, for a hand to stretch forth and say, “Peace. Be Still.” And her soul was stilled, too. The crew stopped at many an island And had a 14-day journey from Florida to Puerto Rico with no land in sight (“that was about the coolest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.”)
She stood at the helm, learning how to sail Roseway, (“much harder than it looks,”). She had a watch group that was on every 8 hours, 24 hours a day. “If you’re off just one degree you’re in big trouble! Now I know what all those conference talks are really about…”
This was an adventure, but it was also SCHOOL with no electronic devices for two months (makes a mama happy!) They studied Maritime Literature, Maritime Science, Maritime History, Nautical Mathematics, and Seamanship. The closer to the Caribbean they sailed, the warmer it became.
And she got a wicked-good tan.
The anticipation of greeting our girl and her mates felt more exciting than Christmas!
It’s been a tough fall for our community. We’ve lost friends in a variety of ways. We’ve all been contemplating how exactly we are supposed to navigate loss. Some people come home. Some people don’t. Some still wander.
With Cope gone, this feeling felt especially heightened. I had the morbid mother thoughts, what if she never came home? How would we go on without our captain?
It was also heartening to see the way our community rallied around each other. As one friend put it, “If I’m getting sick, I’m getting sick here.”
When things were beginning to calm again, our beloved doggie, Lord Tennyson, was hit by a car (our van!) when he decided to test the whole New Hampshire Live Free or Die motto, by making a run through the electric fence and into the road. He did live free (but nearly died) .
It was terribly traumatic, with three kids in the car, going to school. I held him in my arms as he bled from his mouth, nose, and left eye and I could not stop crying. I realized that we could not lose our best beloved!
When the kids were in school (worried sick) The Professor and I drove to the vet. The Professor was sure it was the end. I could not handle this assessment and forced him to think more positively, darn it!
Tenny was away for three days. Every time I came home I missed him. He wasn’t there to greet me. He wasn’t there when I left the house. He wasn’t following me around the kitchen. I hadn’t realized how much I talk to my small and furry friend His muddy, annoying paw prints all over the kitchen floor were suddenly endearing.
So it is with children, isn’t it?
The vet was “pleasantly surprised” that he recovered so well. His left eye was sutured shut for a week so that he looked like a pirate, (so fitting for our captain’s arrival.) He may or may not see out of his eye again, but he lived to bark another day.
It’s gut-wrenching to have your people (and beloved pets) leave you. Sometimes it’s needful. It’s good. But before Cope left, I kind of thought that other kids left home, not mine. Aren’t we still that young couple with babies in diapers? What a terrible realization…they will leave. Every last one.
Good thing I like The Professor so much. Even when he’s cranky (kisses, honey!
A friend wrote to me, after I posted about Cope leaving on her ocean trip:
“Hi. I hope I did not sound patronizing in my note to you. If anything, your post touched a nerve and I am in a rough place over this “growing up and growing a way” stage. My deepest fear has been overwhelming me lately and I am at a loss about how to cope with it. *** is being what I hope is typical of 21…she is pulled away and doing her own thing. Sometimes that shows as being thoughtless . Her own wants and needs top everything and it is painful, to see and to experience. I desperately want her to WANT to be around me on occasion and to feel connected, and she is on her own course. Yes, growing up and having “wings” is good – I am just praying that her foundation is with me as well, and that we can have a good relationship into her adulthood. Ocean seems so long ago, and …she came back. Now I am waiting again….and my heart hurts.”
One way or the other, I believe this: we all make our way back home.
On the eve of this Thanksgiving, we are cherishing the captain’s return. This Thanksgiving there are no empty chairs. Or dog beds.
I am thankful for those seated around my table. I’m also thankful for those who have departed, who are on different life journeys, to places we cannot yet comprehend. In a different way, they are with us, too.
“We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another…that we may all sit down in heaven together.” -Lucy Mack Smith
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we enjoy one another and give great thanks to be surrounded by the ones we love so much.
And don’t forget to enjoy lots of pie, too