“What was Thanksgiving like when you were a little girl?” Cole asked as I was making plans for this week.
“It was nice,” I said, before I gave it much thought.
“Just nice? Was it different in any way?”
What was different? I had to think. When we get caught up in our day to day busy-ness, we forget the moments that became traditions and memories.
My Thanksgiving began when it was still dark, as I wanted to get up as early as possible to enjoy the day. Granny had started cooking the night before when she got off work, and her turkey would already be a golden perfection, just waiting until we all ate.
I would sit in the den, listening to her humming in the kitchen and she would wrap me under a quilt, tucking the end under my feet to keep me warm.
“What do you want for breakfast?” she would ask.
I swear, the old gal was downright sweet when she was cooking. Something about being in the kitchen suited her soul.
“I don’t know,” I would say, knowing what she would offer.
“You want me to fix you a sandwich with the first slice of turkey?”
I would nod and minutes later, she returned with a sandwich of white bread generously coated with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and warm turkey.
“The parade will be on later,” she would tell me, turning on the TV.
Granny spent most of the day in the kitchen but it was worth it – she had homemade coconut and banana cakes; Mississippi mud cake; and sweet potato and chocolate pies. Two separate pans of dressing – one with onions and one without for me and my uncle Bobby.
It was a rare day during the week that I had all of my family home in the same time frame – Pop and Bobby were home, instead of working. Mama usually had worked the night before and with it being a holiday, she normally worked then as well, but she’d watch the parade with me.
Cousins, aunts and uncles would wander in throughout the afternoon to watch part of the football game or just visit.
To me, it was a perfect day.
I don’t even remember any Black Friday sales when I was a little girl – if there was, we didn’t go. Granny had the Sears Wish Book and that’s where she was doing her shopping.
Normally, we were still digesting the day after Thanksgiving.
It changed, when I met my ex, as I started celebrating Thanksgiving with his family.
I never realized how much I missed my own family’s celebration until I got older and things had changed so much it could never be re-created. And, just like that, everything was different.
It was a simple, idyllic time, surrounded by family, during an era free of fear and worry. The news was not filled with horrors or stories that make your heart ache. Or at least it wasn’t for me, because I was a child.
I didn’t know there were things in the world to fear.
How was my Thanksgiving different?
So much has changed in more than 30 years.
The world is such a different place now, a real life dichotomy that can be terrifying and full of hope at the same time. Things are so different now than when I was a little girl.
There’s a more hurried pace and the time together is so much shorter. We are lucky to just have Thanksgiving dinner with family now, those times of Thanksgiving spanning over several days are long gone.
But there we are, we find ourselves surrounded by those we love and are thankful for.
“Not much has changed,” I said, kissing his head. “It’s still a day we focus on all we are grateful for.”
Indeed, and we truly have so much.
There’s one phrase that really irritates me.
It’s been said to me countless times, too, about all kinds of things.
“Just put on your big girl britches and deal with it.”
The first time I heard this phrase, I thought it was the height of rudeness.
How dare someone mention my britches – they were called ‘unmentionables’ for a reason.
Granny and Mama both always told me not to talk about those items in mixed company, meaning men and women – and Mama said there was really no reason to discuss them with anyone other than whoever was buying them for you.
So the first time someone told me to put on my big girl britches (and I call them britches – that other word that begins with a ‘p’ really makes me ill) I felt my checks burn with fire.
But that’s not the only reason the words big and girl preceding britches brings back some emotional bile.
No, the reason is much more deeply rooted in my psyche.
I was maybe about 8 or 9 years old; it’s hard to remember the age, as my early years are better marked by the level of how chubby I was.
There I was, quite the chunk and had outgrown my clothes. A steady diet of Little Debbie’s and Granny’s biscuits will do that to you.
Granny, ever being the frugal fashionista, took me to Sears one evening to find me some new pants. Or as she put it, “Big girl britches.”
I reckon when wearing corduroys becomes a fire hazard, it is time.
Sears in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s was not exactly where kids went to buy clothes to fit in. No, it was a polyester province, speckled with bad plaids and things with funky collars. Granny searched the racks desperately trying to find something that would fit me.
Nothing. Not even something with an elastic waist – or as I called them then, comfortable pants.
No, there was nothing in the girls section that would fit me.
“They gotta have some big girl britches,” Granny muttered. “There’s other girls that are –” she stopped herself before she said it. “Your size.”
It didn’t faze me. I knew what she meant, but I wasn’t going to get upset with the Grand Biscuit Maker of all time. I just wanted to go and get a cookie somewhere.
But Granny was determined I was to get some big girl britches.
“Excuse me,” she shouted across the store at a clerk. “Do you have these britches in anything larger than Pretty Plus or Husky?”
To clarify Granny’s need, she pointed at me and hollered, “Something to fit this ‘un.”
Subtleness was not the old gal’s strong suit.
The clerk joined us at the rack and took an inventory of me. “I’m afraid we don’t have anything to fit her,” she said, apologetically. “You may want to shop in the women’s sizes and just have them hemmed.”
“Y’all ain’t got big girl britches?” Granny asked.
The lady took another glance at me. “No, I am sorry.”
Granny grunted and told the lady they needed to be able to accommodate customers of all sizes.
“Can I get my cookie now?” I asked Granny. One cookie wasn’t going to make a difference at this point.
She got me a cookie. And I think the old gal made me some elastic waist pants, and maybe had my Aunt Louise make me some, too. Not only was I embarrassed by not being able to wear the clothes my friends did, I had to have custom made big girl britches, complete with a stretchy waist.
That summer, Mama made me take tennis lessons.
So you see, being told to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it” has kind of a sore spot with me. As a child, my big girl britches were custom made because I had exceeded the size limits at Sears. Maybe JC Penny’s too, I can’t remember.
Telling a girl to put on her BGBs is really not empowering. It gives an image of a pants-less woman who’s not facing her responsibilities. She’s just sitting around…pants less.
Instead, we often are handling dozens of responsibilities, emergencies, and issues at once —and usually wearing heels and looking fabulous while we do it.
I don’t know too many women who don’t deal with whatever life throws their way. Sometimes, they don’t broadcast it; they just handle it and move on.
No putting on britches required.
The next time someone tells me to “put on my big girl britches and deal with it,” I think I am gonna just put on my heels instead and see what that does. Anything’s gotta better than britches.
The last few weeks, I have been participating in a daily gratitude exercise.
I think I am grateful for what I have in my life but I am not going to lie – this exercise is sometimes a challenge.
Don’t get me wrong: I am immensely grateful for everything I have in my life. I have gentle, daily reminders of grace, but there are times I struggle with those feelings of want.
Our cabin is far too small and cramped. I want a bigger, newer house. I want to have more than one bathroom, for many reasons but the most selfish is so I can put on my makeup without someone knocking on the door telling me to hurry up.
I think of how my car is old and was used when I bought it. It’s small and it wasn’t the car of my choice– but it was what I could afford.
I think of all the things I want, and don’t have.
In other words, I am more focused on what I don’t want than what I do.
And I let petty little occurrences completely steal my joy.
I get disappointed about something and it ruins my day.
Again, it’s not because I am not grateful, because I am.
But I think I have that Depression-consciousness that came from Granny, who was grateful for what she had but also was scared to talk much about having anything out of fear of jinxing herself.
She was thankful once for getting some money and then turned around and had an unexpected expense come up. She just sighed and said she never could have what she wanted.
My uncle Bobby, ever believing he’s going to hit a jackpot, won $160 on a lottery ticket one day and gave half to his favorite – and only – niece. I was going to go to Ulta, to the bookstore, and maybe even the shoe store. I could stretch that money to the inth degree.
The next day, my car battery was dead and needed to be replaced.
I was deflated.
“Story of my life, old gal,” Granny said. “I get some unexpected money, and unexpected bill comes up. I can’t get ahead.”
Of course, that didn’t help; I had always been told Granny and I were just alike.
“Maybe consider it a blessing you had that money to begin with,” Mama said to balance out Granny’s negative spin. “Maybe that’s why Bobby was led to give it to you – to pay for that battery.”
Perhaps, but it was a huge disappointment to me. I had been so excited and was looking forward to going shopping with some ‘mad money.’
Flash forward through the rest of my adult life and just like Granny, I was thankful and grateful but had an underlying sense of fear of losing what little I had.
“I worried about my GPA in college, I made good grades, and I am not scared to work hard; I don’t know why I am not a flippin’ millionaire, Mama,” I cried one day.
She didn’t know what to tell me, other than she wasn’t sure either. She wondered herself.
“Granny and Pop worked hard, too, Kitten,” she said softly.
I knew what she meant. They worked hard, too, and neither were close to being a millionaire.
“Remember what Barry told you about Granny though? Maybe that is how we are supposed to live.” Mama was referring to how a family friend who had known Granny all his life described her, saying, “She was not wealthy by earthly means, but you never knew it the way she loved. She loved generously and deeply.”
True. If the old gal wasn’t wanting to shoot you, she loved you.
There was no in-between.
“I know, Mama,” I said, still wallowing in the deep pool of self-mire. “I just thought for sure, I would be a millionaire by now, given how hard I work.”
I was in one of those funks that neither Mama nor chocolate could pull me from.
These funks come and go over the years, too.
After a few years of not being able to get Cole nearly what he wanted for Christmas, I have started shopping a little bit earlier, even if he sees it.
“Why are you starting so early?” he asked me a few weeks ago as ghosts and goblins were still on display.
“Because, baby,” was my reply.
My child is able to pick up on my moods and sensed there was something deeper. “Why, Mama? Are you OK?”
“Yes,” I assured him, seeing his worried face. “I just, I-” I searched for words.
“Last year I waited almost too late to get your stuff and everything was almost gone — that was a huge disappointment for you. And there’s been a few years your gifts were not that great.”
There had been a few years, his gifts were pretty lean and skimpy to be truthful.
“I just want to be able to get you stuff you want and like, is all. If I was rich, I could get you everything but since I am not, I am getting you a little bit as I can.”
He looked up at me, his face wrinkled in only the confusion pure childlike innocence can invoke. “Oh, sweet girl,” he said. “Don’t you see how rich we are? We have a house, we have three dogs who love us, we have a car, a van, and I have tons of toys. I’ve never not liked anything I got at Christmas – each year has been perfect and the best Christmas ever.
We have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads. If we went and asked people in other countries, they would think we were millionaires! But don’t you see how rich we really are? We’ve just got to be thankful for it…”
And, just like that, my heart was full.
Dear Negative Self-Talk,
It’s not you, it’s me. Really, this time it’s me.
I’ve listened to your lies, your negative comments, thoughts, and criticisms for far too long.
I’ve let you undermine my confidence, tell me I couldn’t do things I wanted to, and made me become a wallflower in the dance of life.
Oh, I know – you were protecting me and keeping me from getting hurt. In case I got hurt, or failed.
But failure shows I am trying.
It shows I tried something new – even if it was horribly wrong and didn’t work out.
I’d rather fail trying than remain stuck in the quicksand of apathy.
But you tell me I will even fail at things I am good at, or that I am not qualified, not ready, or the kicker: someone can do it better.
I fall for that one a lot.
But the truth is, no one can do what I can do, just like I can’t do what someone else can. We all bring our own uniqueness, our own special gifts, talents, quirks, and intrinsic touches to things to no one else but us can produce.
You tell me I am not pretty enough, not thin enough, not rich enough and a host of other things that I am not ‘enough’ of.
I fall for those too, because I feel like life only deserves to be lived by those who are thin, pretty, and have a million dollars in the bank.
I know, deep down, that is a bunch of bunk, but it knocks the wind out of me when I see someone thinner and prettier doing the things I want to do. You are quick to tell me, “See, because you’re not enough is why you can’t have that.”
When I try to focus on the positives and what I do have, your whisper becomes a roar, “You aren’t enough, you aren’t good enough – give up! It won’t happen!”
And there are times, I let you rage and let those voices control my actions, running the gamut from hiding in my shell, scared to do anything because it will be wrong and I will fail.
Or hiding and being bitterly angry because I am not moving forward in any way and I am letting you manipulate me.
Angry because I am believing what you tell me, when I know it’s wrong.
It’s not something I would tell my best friend.
Heck, I wouldn’t even say these things to someone I didn’t like.
But, I wouldn’t say these things to my best friend and I sure wouldn’t let you say them to or about her, yet, I sit here and let these things play on repeat in my head every day.
And I have finally had enough.
So Negative Self Talk, we’re done.
I have grown tired of your control, your ego, and most of all, the way you make me feel day in and day out.
I am standing up for myself and finding a new truth. A new voice that encourages me, coaches me, and tells me to dream big because I can have it all.
I am no longer giving you space in my head to destroy my soul and tell me mistakes I made when I was younger are the reason I can’t succeed now. I’ve had enough of your guilt and your remorse. I think I’ve paid my penance in full, with plenty to spare.
It’s time to move on, to go our separate ways.
I am sure you will come around from time to time – trying to get your foot back in the door – but I am smarter this time. I am not going to listen to any of your convincing sweet talk to get back in.
I wish I could say it’s been fun, but the only thing I can say is I have learned a lot. About myself and how I deserve to be talked to, and how I won’t settle for anyone to talk to me like that again. The worst part is, I let you do it for so long.
So, it’s time to bid you adieu and wish you well. I hope you know it’s really not you; it’s me.
And I am believing for better for me now.