Thankful and misty eyed

Some of my friends diligently post a gratitude message each November day. Several times I have considered this habit and rejected it. My life is definitely full of 30 things to be grateful for, but I am a procrastinator. I might think about performing this task in September and again in October, but by the time I feel ready to log, it’s mid-November — so I might as well wait until next year. Also, as others wax poetic on emotional ties, I have shallow thoughts like: isn’t it great to be maskless so I can wear my dangly earrings again?

We had all of our kids home for Thanksgiving, and within an hour of the last one’s arrival, the board games came out. From simple childhood ones to long strategic games, these have always been the fabric of our family time, but these competitions haven’t always been peaceful.

I was in the kitchen prepping dinner, forgotten, except as the supplier of the necessary information. Would I be a fourth player? No. How long until dinner? About an hour.

One sibling was sent to the game room to bring up a selection that fit the requirements. The result: a game that had been banned from family play. Not that it was full of adult humor or that it was too hard — on the contrary, it was simple: a fast contest where players produce words to match the opponents’ categories. Any other family could play rationally and have a good time, but not my kids. This particular game inevitably ended in tears, slammed doors and smoldering resentment, hence the ban.

The three looked over guiltily as I let out a heavy sigh, but they didn’t acknowledge my concern.

Ten minutes later, one called over, “Look we can play this now! No fighting.”

“It’s early yet,” I replied. But really, at 16, 21 and 24, shouldn’t they be able to play a game rated for ages 10 and up?

As I cooked, I was lulled into contentment. As the older two are on the cusp of making changes in their lives, I don’t know how many more holidays will be marked by everyone coming home. It’s a thought I didn’t want to say out loud. Then it began …

“Sundae toppings: sprinkles!” shouted Phoebe, scooping up a pair of cards and potentially taking the lead.

“I challenge that,” countered Quin. “If you were working at Mountain Mist and a customer ordered a dish of ice cream with sprinkles would you charge them for a sundae? No, of course not. Sprinkles are not a sundae topping.”

“He has a point,” Chloe chimed in. All three are present and past employees of Mountain Mist, so this reasoning was perfectly logical.

“But you can put them on a sundae and it goes on top; therefore, it is a sundae topping.”

“But you can put them on a cone and it doesn’t make it a sundae,” Quin persisted.

At this point in the past, there would’ve been an argument, tears, and the inevitable call of “Mom,” but Phoebe has a new partner: technology.

“Look, here is a confetti sundae.” Phoebe showed a picture on her phone. “What’s on top? Sprinkles.”

“That’s on a donut. So that’s a fancy donut, not really a sundae,” Chloe pointed out.

Backed into a corner, Phoebe reached for another ally: more technology. “Hey Google, what are some sundae toppings?”

The mini-speaker intoned, “I found 25 on Desserts.com. They are hot fudge, sprinkles, whipped cream …”

Silence. The game went on. Phoebe kept her cards.

And in the kitchen, I felt a rush of gratitude — not because I had been easily replaced by technology. While there were times when I would’ve gladly shared the responsibility of motherhood, Google can’t change diapers. And I wasn’t just thankful that a family blowout had been avoided. My gratitude extended beyond the kitchen table.

With an eight-year spread, developmentally my kids have never been in the same place. Yet, they are able to relate and share the same experiences. In a large part, their common summer employment provided this connection.

As they ignore me in the kitchen, I silently give thanks to Jay Fogarty and Mountain Mist. Between the challenges of vertical cone dips, the shake machine and customer service, all three have had the opportunity to meet challenges, problem-solve and take on more responsibilities. As they developed work skills, the ties between them strengthened. For this, I am grateful.

My kids will mock me when they read this column — I’m sure of it. There will be texts shared and memes created. They will engage in a communal eye roll at the corniness of their mother.

While I am happy to foster their bond, I am thankful they will never share these messages with me.


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