Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This single thing

It’s Thanksgiving Eve

Because I’m not going to be able to go to her house tomorrow for Thanksgiving, my officemate Noelle brought me a homemade personal-sized pumpkin pie today. I told her that I couldn’t wait to eat it with Cool Whip on top.
By the end of the day, I perched on the chair beside her desk, finishing off the remnants of the crust and filling. She grinned. “So much for Cool Whip, huh?”
I laughed, slipping a piece of the flaky shell in my mouth.
“You like it? I used maple syrup instead of sugar. Can you taste the maple syrup?”
I looked at the orange mush left around the edges of the plate. “Mmm. Not really, but it’s delicious.”
Her shoulders slumped.
I hurried on. “But it’s been a whole year since I had a slice of pumpkin pie, so I probably just forgot what a regular pie tastes like.”
She nodded, satisfied with the answer. I picked up my computer case, wished her a Happy Thanksgiving and left.
Walking out into the darkening evening, I couldn’t believe that it had been a year already since Thanksgiving. Nor could I fathom that it has been 6 years since I spent a Thanksgiving with my family.
Thanksgiving Eve is more special to me even than the Thanksgiving Day. Something about the anticipation of a thing (or day) is sometimes more eventful than the event itself. It’s such a sensory holiday—engaging the olfactory senses especially. My dad always cubes loaves of bread to add into celery and onion sautéed in butter to create our stuffing. His concoction leaves the house laden with a mouth-watering aroma. When I was a kid, he would always let me rummage through the leftover portions of celery to find the yellow heart of the stalk to munch on. This is just one of the memories that I recall from the life I used to be a part of.
As I drove to the grocery store, I became keenly aware of the emotions which assault me at this time of the year—darkening emotions which slither in with the earlier darkening evenings. Nasty emotions which coat my soul and weigh it down.
I’m not sure what it is that inflicts me from November to December; after all, this is a time of giving thanks and a season of comfort, joy, peace, and promise. I reason with myself: Maybe it’s the feeling of meaning being sacrificed for tradition. Maybe it’s the cold and dark weather. Maybe it’s the idea that I still have at least 250 dollars worth of Christmas gifts to buy. Or maybe, I think as I walk into Publix grocery store, it’s the old fact for which I blame every melancholy tendency—I have no one to go home to, I have no one to love me in this mistletoe infested season full of romantic elements. Maybe it's because I am still single.
Last Christmas, I cried. Tears,--the kind that lonely women cry on TV— streamed down my face. This wasn’t how I had planned to spend my first Christmas away from home—in an apartment, setting up a pre-lit two-foot tall Christmas tree with one of my red t-shirts wrapped around the base as a tree skirt, listening to burned Christmas CDs—still single. I hung a lament of my loneliness with every ornament on the tree.

Last Thanksgiving I spent the day at Noelle’s house along with her husband and another friend she had invited—a bitter divorced man whom harassed me constantly, sulking half the night and verbally attacking me the other half.
I cried myself to sleep that night, promising myself that I would never again spend Thanksgiving at another person’s house.

Publix was bustling. Apparently, others had waited until the last minute to buy pumpkin, apples, potatoes, chocolate chips, wine, nutmeg—or like I had-- ground cloves. The workers ran around, offering assistance at every turn. But with them, happy couples pushed carts around, perhaps preparing to spend their first holiday giving thanks for one another. I consoled myself with the thought that the bag boy, would show me the attention I craved—they always insist upon carrying your bags even if it is one bag holding a container of Q-tips. But when my transaction was completed, he abandoned me to my bag of cloves and walnuts. I snatched up the bag, brushed past the Salvation Army bell ringer, trudged to the car, and drove home.
I cranked the oven on to 350 and commenced to gathering ingredients for pumpkin spice bars. I felt something like an emotional chameleon standing there measuring teaspoons of cinnamon and cups of flour and pumpkin into a bowl. I went from sad to satisfied back to lonely and again to satisfied. Then I decided to settle on one: I would take on a thankful mindset to match the holiday.
Things have changed in this year—and while I’ve forgotten what pumpkin pie tastes like, I have not forgotten the ever present reality of my marital status. But I have learned a few things about this state of living known as singleness. I’ve learned that it’s not a synonym for loneliness.
I’m not going to sulk about being single. I have a beautiful apartment, a purposeful job, plenty of opportunities to spread smiles and love, a free country in which to live, a family who misses me, a random life filled with the blessings and protection of a loving God. Yes, I might be single, but I am not lonely—not with so many blessings present in my life.
I was true to my word from last year— I’m not going to someone else’s home. Tomorrow I’m going to help make nearly 1,000 sailors and Marines feel at home for Thanksgiving at the USO. That’s what the pumpkin bars are for.
There are many lonely people in the world this Thanksgiving eve. Many whom might struggle to find a single thing to be thankful for. But I’m thankful that I am not among them.
Because even this single thing, I'm thankful for.

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