It is the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I am still peppy. Usually, at this point in the Thanksgiving weekend, I fall into bed in a state of total exhaustion. But I've just spent three days with three families under one roof [paterfamilias and I; uber son and his growing family; alpha daughter and hers]. All three of the "big" grands were there, and all the running around and energy that a 5, 6 and 7 year-old can expend in their waking hours were expended. Footballs were thrown, dress-up was played; special "performances" were given. Plus there was all the cuteness, sweetness and smiley-ness of a 6-month old--and all the constant parenting and protecting that involves. A big dinner was served [turkey as well as tofurky and many many trimming] and lots and lots of other meals [both regular and veggie]. Beds were made, dishes washed, stories read, long walks taken. And yet, here I stand, feeling perfectly refreshed.
The difference? This year our family--each of us live in a different city--convened at uber son's house. He, and most especially my daughter-in-law, took on all the responsibilities for shopping and figuring our where everyone would sleep. I helped with the cooking--I made some of my favorites--but I was second mate. New dishes or new variations of dishes were introduced. My daughter-in-law [AKA second daughter] has a real flair for floral arrangements and, with what seemed like little effort, a lovely and appropriately low-key arrangement was created for the center of the table--as opposed to my smooshing flowers into a vase.
It didn't matter how much I pitched in to help, the reality is this: It wasn't my house . Is it that simple? Not really. As usual, I wanted to do everything I could to make things easier for my children--by helping with their kids, running an errand, doing a load of wash or whatever. Still it wasn't that tiring because others were in charge. Maybe it's because paterfamilias and I experienced what my friend Marian, the psychiatrist, calls "flattening of the hierarchy." At moments, paterfamilias, who is much less involved in making the household work, came close to what my friend Steve calls "feeling irrelevant." Not that either of us felt irrelevant--but we were not the center of the dynamics. Connections were being made between daughter and daughter-in-law; between daughter-in-law and son-in-law. Reconnections were being made between son and daughter who don't see each other very often. Bonds were being forged between pint-sized cousins. We are the original connective tissue, but they are stretching out without us. Which is how it has to be.
I kinda liked passing the Thanksgiving torch. I didn't miss all the shopping, cooking and bed-making that having eight visitors in my home entails--to say nothing of the many trips to the airport to pick everyone up with suitable car seats in cars. But paterfamilias was of another mind. Of course. He likes being master of the house. He likes filling it with his children and his children's children. He likes the routines we had--the zoo on the day after Thanksgiving, the setting up of his old but still-runnable electric trains. Being head of the table and of the family. He is not tredding lightly on any flattening of the hierarchy. On this Saturday after Thanksgiving, he wants to re-think what we do next year and who does it.