I love Thanksgiving, it’s my favorite holiday in fact. I appreciate the simplicity of it. Family, friends, food and giving thanks. Isn’t that all the good stuff in life?
This year we are hosting 10 guests for our Thanksgiving meal. Two of them will arrive from out of town tomorrow to begin our festivities. My heart has fluttered all week with anticipation this warm, beloved holiday, but my brain has been in full-on “Get Stuff Done” mode. Like many of you, I have been gradually prepping for days – seeing how many errands I can jam into a couple hours before baby needs a nap, divvying up grocery lists into what I need from several different stores, planning centerpieces and place settings. Should I try out that yummy-looking dish with quince this year? And where the heck do I buy quince? Who has the best deal on turkey? Do I have enough nice plates for our guests? So many questions, including the most important one – How am I supposed to choose which pie to make when I want ALL the pies?
Goodness knows there are also toilets to be scrubbed, rooms to be picked up and floors to be cleaned. Oh, and I’ve got to make sure we all have something to wear that day that’s not covered in stains or too small.
Despite the joy I feel anticipating Thanksgiving and the gratitude I’ve been striving to focus on this month, over the past few days I’ve become a kind of walking to-do list. Throw a sick baby into the mix and you get an overwhelmed, walking to-do list.
Last night, after getting kids down and cleaning up, I talked through my mental stressors with my husband. Doing Thanksgiving on a budget was weighing on me. The workload to come was weighing on me. And of course – “getting things just right.”
He reminded me to take the pressure off, that there was no one we needed to impress and that we should just enjoy celebrating together.I smiled knowing he was right, and then defensively reminded him that he had never had to be the hostess of these kinds of events and that it really was a lot to plan and carry out. He smiled and conceded, then we headed for bed.
As I knelt by my bed to pray, I heard some noises from my son’s room. Not good noises. Choking, coughing, barking, and wheezing noises. I woke my husband who was already sleeping. Our boy has a history of respiratory distress. Simple treatment at home with a nebulizer or inhaler typically helps him through these rough patches. As a toddler he had been at the ER several times when his respiratory distress had become serious. But we had never heard him like this. As we rushed to his room, he stumbled into the hall. His face was contorted.
He looked anguished and afraid. He was struggling, barking in an effort to gasp in some air. But he was not getting air. We set up his nebulizer as quick as we could and turned it on but he continued to struggle. He was getting some air, surely, but not enough. He couldn’t breathe, let alone talk. We were watching our son suffocate. In those tense minutes I was struck this this humbling thought. Every minute we have together is a gift. Every healthy minute we have together is a miracle.
Knowing we couldn’t get him to the hospital in time to receive the help he needed to breathe, I called 9-1-1. Less than 5 minutes later a paramedic team was in our house, setting up equipment to administer some heavier medication to our son. He began to calm down and gradually started to breathe better. Once his breathing had stabilized enough that we could cut off the treatment, he was rushed to the ER of the hospital near our home. Dad would go, I would stay home with the other two. Our little guy had improved enough that he speak a little in a raspy, squeaky voice. Before he left he told me that he loved me. And that he wanted to draw a picture and make cookies to thank the paramedics who had helped him.
As I lay in bed, unable to sleep, I alternated between prayer and thought. I marveled at how quickly my perspective had changed that night. Just hours earlier, my attitude had been completely focused on me – on things I wanted and needed to do to make this Thanksgiving picture perfect. How quickly that focused had changed. Jello mold? Who cares about jello. Centerpiece? Not important. House pristine? Not realistic anyways. What was important? Us. The time we have together. The memories we make and the bonds that we build not just on holidays, but on every day.
My husband stayed with our son that night as doctors performed exams, administered treatments and monitored him. They came home exhausted early this morning with some prescriptions and instructions to come back if things got worse again.
As I watched my son sleep during a much-needed nap this afternoon, I thought of all the miracles in our lives and of all our blessings. Overnight my to-do list of superficial stressors had been replaced by a more genuine and joyful one.
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
Hug my kids.
Hug them again.
Read them some books.
Play a game together.
Tell them I love them.
Express gratitude and love to my husband.
Snuggle him more.
Serve someone who is in need.
Be generous to someone who wasn’t expecting it.
Express sincere gratitude to friends and family.
Help my guests feel appreciated and welcome.
Share our home and meal in an act of communion, not to impress.
I can honestly say that this list causes me no stress. It only brings me joy. Letting the superficial and material layers fall away has freed me to focus on truly giving thanks this year. And for that I am grateful. I hope next time it does not take an emergency to remind me of what matters most.
Allison Maselli believes in pursuing lifelong learning and adventure. Her greatest adventure so far is building a world with her husband for her three energetic cherubs. Any day you might find her trying out a new ? sourdough recipe, flailing her limbs in a family dance party, or reading for herself or to her kiddos. Follow her on facebook to catch what she writes for different sites around the web.