Dear Atticus, on celebrating


Dear Atticus,

This is the week of Thanksgiving, which might just be my favorite holiday. For one thing, any holiday that is centered around food is okay by me. Thanksgiving has the additional edge of also being about family (I like mine) and gratitude (I am for it). This focus on gratitude makes people kind in a way that Christmas, with its frantic pace, sometimes does not. I saw many people pause this week and express appreciation for one another. This is why I love Thanksgiving, I thought. Pretty much everybody here celebrates it, and it is so easy to take that opportunity to show generosity of spirit.

We spend Thanksgiving with family, but your dad and I do not host the holiday at our house. The one big party that we throw every year is the Great Pumpkin Party, focused on pumpkins and fun. When we talk about celebrating, that’s the one you need to know about. We make a lot of soup and muffins and pie, we have s’mores and pumpkin carving and Charlie Brown. I look forward to it every year.

Except this year. We thought about cancelling the Great Pumpkin Party this year. Because it’s kind of a lot, even though we have ironed out a lot of the kinks. Because I am tired. Because you have so much crazy energy. But we sent the evite and the responses trickled in. We managed to get the food together. I refused to check the weather, though your dad kept updating me with the gloom and doom of it all. And on the morning of the party, we woke to rain and cold.

I have learned a lot in the past year about changing my expectations. This has meant all sorts of things, from turning books in to the library unfinished to seeing relationships shift in significant ways. I wouldn’t say that I have lowered my expectations, because that implies that you are a net negative in our lives. I think that I am asking quite a lot of myself, actually. But my day-to-day expectations of what that looks like are definitely different than I imagined a year ago. One of my coworkers keeps saying that she admires my calm attitude about things. I don’t think of myself as a calm person, but if I am calm in the middle of stressful situations, I think I have learned some of that from parenting you. I try to do my best and let things go from there.

We had the party anyway. We rolled up the rugs and had the pumpkin carving inside. It was crowded, as our house doesn’t have a lot of big spaces or big doorways. We showed Charlie Brown in the carport instead of on the patio. We still had s’mores. We ate soup and muffins and you charmed everyone with your smiles and your constant motion. It was not perfect. We had the party because it is more important to have fun than for things to be perfect. It is more important to make memories than to manufacture moments. Pumpkin season will come around again next year, and we will throw another party. And it will be different, but it won’t be perfect, either.

There is no such thing as a perfect party. Food gets burned or dropped. There are dirty dishes in the sink. People you love can’t be there. It rains. There’s no such thing as a perfect anything. But we shouldn’t let unrealistic expectations keep us from celebrating the joys of life, big and small.

Tomorrow we will eat your Great-Grandma’s famous pecan pie with the ones we can. It is good to be with people we love, no matter what it looks like. For that, I am grateful.


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