I set the orange juice bottle next to the chips in the pantry and paused as a realization came to me. “Orange juice does not belong here. It goes in the fridge.” I stared at my hand feeling trauma overwhelm me.
I wanted my dream Thanksgiving this year.
I have my children every other year. This was my year. And, for the first time in 7 years, I felt different- I actually wanted to cook instead of climbing in a hole, and bless my family.
I bought the turkey, made homemade (sorta) stuffing, whipped potatoes for mashed potatoes, opened the can of the little peas we like, created that green bean casserole Kroger tells you to make, heated fancy Hawaiian buns, and warmed the pumpkin pie.
I wanted to give this gift to my kids- finally a “normal” Thanksgiving. And to top it off, it was my daughter’s 14th birthday. Blissful joy.
So what went desperately wrong?
“Can I go to Amy’s house?”
NOW?! I looked at my daughter in disbelief. Dinner would be ready in an hour, we had already discussed she could go over to her friend’s house later that evening, and I wanted my family together so we could create a new memory.
A slight buzzing rippled through my brain; I felt my face flush and I paused before responding. Calmly and firmly, I stated that her friend would need to meet us halfway if she wanted to go now. I also gently told her, I was really, really sad she didn’t want to be with me.
As I turned from her, I could see her texting her friend to arrange the pick up location and tears attempted to dislodge from my eyes. I tried to distract myself by tidying the kitchen, which included putting the orange juice in the pantry. I stared at my hand on the bottle.
This was a trigger. My brain was completely offline. I tried to remember all the tools I had to handle triggers. This was the biggest one I had in years. I was barely functioning.
I dodged into the bathroom so my other 3 kids wouldn’t see my anguish. I sat on the toilet and wept.
It wasn’t my daughter’s fault our family was a mess. We don’t ever have “normal”. Why would she want to sit at a table reminding her of her broken home? And it was her birthday. She should get to do what she wants.
I used the toilet paper to wipe my face, looked at my reflection in the mirror, barely able to meet my eyes. I breathed deeply. Today would not be marred for my other children.
I saw my “empath” child look towards me as I exited the bathroom. I wondered if he noticed the orange juice bottle I put in the pantry…
That thought brought a fresh flood of emotions. My children should get to have the joyful me. Not the broken me.
I quietly walked to my bedroom, closed the door, leaned against the wall, felt my back slide down the wall, and allowed myself full body sobs.
Memories of past Thanksgiving rolled through my mind. Dreams lost. I don’t deserve to be here. My sweet, dear children don’t deserve this. They are innocent victims forced to accept weird normalcy.
The trigger finally passed. I was mentally exhausted. As I reentered my kitchen, I focused on the smells coming from a pumpkin candle blended with the massive turkey in the oven.
My oldest, home from college, was laughing with one brother, while my youngest son was putting the finishing touches on the Thanksgiving table. I smiled.
We will be ok. We always are.
Turned out, my daughter stayed for Thanksgiving. I’m glad God graced me to respond with love and kindness to her request when rage would have been easier.
The turkey tasted wonderful, and my dream was answered: dinner and games with my children.
And yes, after 95 days of waiting, I hope our judge had a pleasant Thanksgiving.
Still waiting… (you can find the beginning of this series here).