Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday: food and family. What more could anyone want really? As we get older, we don’t have to make as much food as not all of the family can be here (we miss you, absent sibs and cousins!). Still, the happy glow of post-dinner candlelit conversation and sleepiness, knowing a long weekend stretches ahead, warms my heart every time I think of it.
I’m so excited to bring Tess into this tradition. In some ways, our Turkey day is super old school: dad gets up really early to get the bird in; mom, Susu and Aunt Sue make sure the potatoes, stuffing, pie, etc are out of this world, the table has candles and silver and the special dishes we only use for this (and we the dishwashers are terrified of chipping), lingering at the table…you know, Rockwellian. On the other hand, we’ve had alcoholic whipped cream hand-delivered from New York for dad’s magic coffee that can make you go blind in one eye, Dave with a Movember mustache (never to be repeated), a family photo despite missing half the family, and we have even started with drinks outside. Trust me – that’s atypical for the Midwest in late November!
The most important part is, no matter what, Thanksgiving with my family is about stories and laughter – and I don’t mean in the cute way. We tell stories so big they make you fall off your chair or cry on your neighbor’s shoulder. I don’t know where they come from, but howling laughter makes an appearance as regularly as my favorite pumpkin pie.
All of this will be part of Tess’ memories; the kiddie table and the first time she gets to sit with the adults, fighting sleep to stay awake as late as possible, secret missions and adventures throughout mom’s (grandma’s) house because the adults aren’t watching, movies and turkey and pie! She won’t know what she’s got for a while yet, but I hope she’ll eventually share in my fondness for turkey day.
Thanksgiving reminds me of how grateful we are for these moments; for being parents and bringing our daughter into these traditions. I’ve heard a lot of varied opinions on open adoption, but Dave and I feel so lucky that we get to thank Kat and Spencer regularly for choosing us to be Tess’ family. We know that another family marvels over her and is as grateful as we are that she’s a healthy, squeaking kiddo with fat pink cheeks and sparkly eyes. For a thanks this big, one time isn’t enough. We thank them by showing them how well she’s doing, and how loved she is. That’s never-ending gratitude. And here’s the secret: it’s not hard! People have told us how brave we are to keep that link alive, but for us it’s natural. I think it’s tougher for the birthparents; they made the sacrifice. People who love our child are friends, not threats.
We were spoiled in a weird way, because we wouldn’t normally have had so much time together. The bond between the four of us only grew because of Tess’ NICU time. Maybe that’s a strange thing to say, but now that it’s behind us, that relationship endures much longer than the stress of the NICU did. I would never call it simple or easy; we don’t communicate constantly, but I like to think we think of each other fondly pretty regularly. There’s a lot of emotion involved, which means worry about hurting people as we make decisions. Still, the fundamental respect and understanding we all have is untranslatable for those outside of it. I guess I’m saying I’m grateful for this relationship that I was scared to have; for the gratitude and caring I feel for Tess’ birth family on days like this. Yes, grateful for gratitude – I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience adoption this way if Tess’ birth had played out differently.
Speaking of the hospital, I haven’t mentioned how insanely lucky we still feel thanks to all of the incredible medical care Tess got in Utah. To any nurses reading this, you are literally lifesavers, and I get goosebumps thinking of all of the hard work and love you gave Tess and us in the NICU. thank you for the blood, sweat and tears you give all of those kids and families. You are incredible. Tess’ progress and lack of issues can be directly tied to your efforts in care and in teaching us how to be the best preemie parents possible. Swaddle baths rock!
So we’re grateful for all of our family: the Wemples, Oplingers, Whites, friends that feel like relatives, and the birth family and nurses that made us the luckiest people in the world. We wish all of you as much happiness and fortune as we’ve experienced this year, and lots and lots of turkey and pumpkin pie.