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A Most Thankful Thanksgiving

Family drama.

It’s pervasive. Doesn’t matter what race, religion or astrological sign you are, familial craziness appears to be universal, especially around the holidays.

Our family met this Thanksgiving in Palm Springs. It’s become a little tradition over the past few years and I look forward to the serenity that has come to personify our Turkey Day weekend.

CUE MUSIC: Tradition, Fiddler On The Roof.

A week before leaving, one family member who had been a part of this small group decided not to join. But worse, this person was weirdly evasive about it. Maybe I’m just a sentimental ‘ole fool but this saddened me as I was hoping to make it a lasting memory for my kids. This family member had recently battled a life-threatening disease as had one of my own parents. If ever there was a Thanksgiving to give thanks as a unit, this was it. After decades of silly disappointments, I did what I never thought I was capable of doing, I cut this person out of my life. For good. Kaput. Done.

I know, Prime Time drama.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, I spent one day with my immediate family doing a variety of fun, Palm Springs activities and did not see my folks at all the entire day. This did not sit well with the “oldies”. Mom and dad were PISSED. When we went to say “goodnight” to them, we were promptly kicked out of their room. I was so distressed at hurting my parents, I had to pop sleeping pills to get through the night.

ABC After-School Special drama.

A dear friend of ours decided to join us for the whole Thanksgiving weekend due to his own family troubles. He wanted out of his family commitments, a Thanksgiving Time-Out, if you will. His mother called him and expressed her supreme hurt at him for playing hooky.

Soap Opera drama.

On our last day in town, we were all going on a big walk through town. I had to tend to our new dog for a minute and I knew my parents were downstairs, waiting for my kids. It was the meeting place we had all designated during our hotel stay. “Run down and join Oma and Opa” were my exact words as I gave the dog some water. “I’ll be down in one minute”. My eldest daughter looked at me quizzically for a moment. “By ourselves?” she asked. “Oma and Opa are there” I replied, positive they were downstairs, waiting. We were all running late.

One minute later, after putting the dog in his crate, I shot downstairs to join everybody. But nobody was there. I noticed a car drive out of the parking lot and my heart began to beat wildly. “Breathe”, I told myself, they must be with their grandparents. I yelled loudly for them and then ran to my parents room, half way around this massive hotel complex. My parent’s hotel room was empty, save the cleaning lady. I must have looked bloody terrified as the lady dropped her bucket and asked me if everything was okay. I had no voice to respond and sped out the door. I headed back to the parking lot, telling myself that all will be okay, they’re with their grandparents, for sure. And then I saw my parents. Alone. I let out a guttural scream, all the blood draining out of my body. My husband was nowhere in sight. I grabbed a security person and told him to call the police. He started asking me questions and I answered them as best I could, breathless, hoarse, terrified.

My husband suddenly pulled up to the parking lot. I didn’t know it then, but he had also spotted the car driving off and instinctively gave way to a chase. He couldn’t catch the car and had come back, hoping that miraculously, the issue had been resolved. He looked up at my third floor window where I was talking to a security guard. He looked at me like “well???” and I shook my head “no”, the nightmare, heading into reality.

My vision suddenly became all white. I was momentarily blind from shock and fear. Your head tells you that this can’t really be happening but your heart knows better. It recalls those tragic incidents that you hear on television, the deep rage and sadness you feel when watching a Nancy Grace or a Crime Solvers show.

My husband was talking to the police on his cell. I was talking to police on the security guard’s phone, describing my daughters and what they were wearing. This cannot be happening.

20 minutes had gone by since I had run down the stairs, a minute after my children.

A different security officer runs over to me, waving. “They’ve been found.” I looked at him, unsure whether to put my trust in this stranger.
“They’re in the front lobby” the security officer said. I bent over in total relief and gratitude, giving reverence to a phantom higher power.

The front lobby was a quarter mile from our room. My clever daughter had gone there after not seeing her grandparents in the designated waiting area. Why she and her sister had not come right back up the stairs, she could not say. But they were safe. They were sound. They were apologetic.

The girls went off for that walk with their grandparents. My husband and I were too shaken to go, all our energy depleted. As we watched them walk away, we pledged to each other to fight less and then we thanked G-d that this unthinkable, Harrison Ford-like drama had concluded with a safe, PG-ending.

All the other drama in your life diminishes.
Lesson learned.