123Valerie Strikes Again

Unprecedented Self-Indulgence.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Missing Piece

"Something's different about you, Val."

"Must be the haircut," I said, sheepishly. But the truth is, something has changed.

My family met up in Northern Kentucky for the holiday, bringing together an unlikely cast of characters all bonded by that peculiar connection of marriage and, thus, "family." And, whether they be Pentecostal or Pagan, farmers or financiers, young or old, each commented that something is different about me as we talked with plates of ham, turkey and green bean casserole before us.

And that something isn't even me. It is the love from a man I wanted here to introduce to my extensive acquired family, proudly, sure that he could show them everything I love about him and more. The love from a man I wanted here to goof with the kids, to give them piggy back rides and play "Giant" with tiny broccoli pieces and Barbie clothes. The love from a man I wanted here who leaves me sweet notes and brings flowers to remedy bad days.

But that man was stuck at home, the Thanksgiving holiday sandwiched between two of a restaurant's busiest days of the year, cooking for strangers when I wanted him to be eating with family. He made the best of it, spending his day off putting up Christmas decorations at my place, entertaining the dog and dinner out with his folks.

"Plenty of leftover spaghetti and meatballs here when you get back," he told me.

"Trade you for Nan's cranberry and cabbage Jell-O salad," I offered.

"Tell you what," he said, "I'll consent to putting up your Michael Bolton Christmas ornament if you promise not to bring any of that home."

We struck a deal and hung up the phone, both of us sad because of the distance, both of us surprised that in a matter of a few shorts months we have come to rely upon and appreciate each other for the morale support, perspective, humor and a much-needed embrace after a long day.

I am so thankful for my beautiful, wonderful, mad-cap family and for the chance to have everyone together in one place, if even for a short time. For my parents who have given me the wings to fly and a safe place to land. For my sisters, who give me so many reasons to laugh and permission to cry. For my Nan, who has kind words, wonderful ideals and size 4 shoes. For my aunts, who have hearts of gold and brass balls. For my niece, who starts the day eager to find out what it holds. For my nephews, who understand the meaning of friendship and adventure. For all of them and more.

But, for the first time ever, this year I felt we were incomplete, that someone was missing. It was him. And it scares the shit out of me.

In the Comments section, tell me what your favorite holiday leftover is. Hard to believe, but it's not Nan's cranberry and cabbage Jell-O salad. I did, however, wrap up the remainder of her chipped beef and cheddar ball, as well as a couple of pieces of her make-you-swoon caramel turtle cake.

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