It's Thanksgiving and the house is full, both of people and the smell of roasted turkey. We loll back in our seats in that moment between being too full to move but too tempted by seconds (okay, thirds) to relinquish our half-empty plates.
I am excited about the trip, but still I am angry. Taking my children home is important to me, but this is not just a homecoming. It is a fact finding mission. One I resent having to make.
We fly on Tuesday and are in Target on Saturday to find things to entertain the children on the plane. The youngest gets activity books and the oldest gets novels. I am not getting anything because I already have three non-fiction titles packed away. I don't expect to actually read them, of course. After all, this is traveling with children.
We get out of the car and Ian carries Iliana across the parking lot, grateful she's not actually asleep. The drive to Shoreline is just long enough to make her drowsy and she's at the stage where a nap will ruin an already tenuous bedtime; afternoon errands like this are always a gamble.
I sit with my back to the Christmas tree, a roll of wrapping paper on the floor in front of me. There are a dozen or so gifts to wrap for the children and I am excited. This will be the loveliest Christmas we've had in years.
I roll the thick paper back onto itself and press it down to give myself a crease, the way my mother taught me when I was young. I slide a knife through the fold to give myself a good cut edge, and then flip the paper over. The first gift to be wrapped is a darling Playmobil set I would have adored as a girl. Who are we kidding? I adore it now.
This year I get a pink Le Clic camera. I immediately load a disc of film into the back of the plastic case, delighting in its slippery newness.
My sister gets a blue Le Clic because Mom insists on getting us matching presents. Celine gets blue because she refuses anything not blue. She owns blue, as if that's possible. I get whatever other color there is because I'm not particular, only that's not quite it.
Mom doesn't have to tell us to open our gifts at the same time anymore; we've learned for ourselves the lesson of a spoiled surprise. There are few surprises these days anyway, since Celine and I are both relentless and clever about guessing our presents. Sometimes Mom just laughs at our pre-Christmas antics. Sometimes she get truly angry. This year she is more angry than amused.
I start first grade and feel apprehensive. I don't know that word yet, but I know what it means. My mother's ʻōpū swells around the baby she's carrying and I don't know if I want to be happy. I'm too big for her to carry now, she tells me. But I know it's actually because of the baby.
My cousin Candace asks me if I'm excited to be a big sister and I shrug.
"Well," I tell her plaintively, "I guess I won't be the baby anymore."
Mommy said I have some time to get used to the idea. It's only September and the baby won't be here until right before Christmas. She seems excited about it.
My sister's in Mexico this Thanksgiving week, so I'm on my own to make the turkey. It's rare, but not unheard of for us to be apart during the holiday. We've been making this meal together since we were kids.
We have a system, most of it involving crude humor as we shove delicious balls of bread and meat into a gaping carcass. My mother's Portuguese sausage and bacon stuffing is the primary reason we make a turkey at all. It's a delicious roasting pan that doubles as a side dish. In my family, for as long as I can remember, the stuffing is always king.
On the first of November, the internet was aflutter with the news that Brittany Maynard ended her life. And sure, I read the articles with as much voyeuristic interest as the next guy, but the timing of it just kind of gutted me, I guess.
After all, it was also the third anniversary of my mother's death.
I missed you today. You know, more than normal. Ian took the day off work so he could chase Iliana while I went to a doctor's appointment. You know that pain I keep getting in my hip / leg / whatever? It' been coming back more and more, and a couple of weeks ago I found a lump. I know. I was pretty scared, especially when I got an electric jolt of nerve pain when I pressed on it. I know that if I had Neurofibromatosis they'd already have found it, but lumps and nerve pain still freak me out.
I know you'd totally understand.
I'm working on some exciting projects, the kids are doing well, and pretty much life is effing great. I just saw my cousin Val, who also just so happens to be my godmother and one of my favorite Maunupau relations. (Though truth be told, I have dozens of favorite Maunupau relations.) I'm looking forward to an extraordinarily rare date night with Ian, and our pain-in-the-ass eighteen month remodel project is finally coming to a close.
Like I said, life is pretty great.
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