Ever since I tried to jump the carpool lane at Franny’s school, I have surrendered to my increasingly unconventional life. For most of my post-divorce years, I was determined to resurrect some semblance of my former, perfect-on-the-surface existence. I was a slave to the things I thought I needed to be acceptable. A house. A husband. Holiday cards featuring gleaming teeth and coordinated outfits.
But with each passing year, it became harder to shove that boulder up the mountain. The majority of a decade spent ducking my ex’s Ninja moves, watching my son sucked into the high-conflict abyss that would eventually spit him out and into wilderness camp, losing a custody battle and a boatload of money, ending a second, well-meaning, but ill-advised marriage, and winding up in an apartment — the first time in 20 years I hadn’t owned a house — cracked me open.
The moment I zipped around the orange cones that separated me from the regular moms my race for perfection was over. I looked at those mothers on the other side of the cones and accepted the fact that I had little in common with them.
And it felt fantastic. I felt relieved to step out of the prison that is perfectionism. I felt younger, and saucier, and I-don’t-give-a-fuckier.
Which brings me to Thanksgiving. I loathe Thanksgiving. For years Luca would only spend it with his dad. I didn’t have relatives close by to celebrate with, and I couldn’t afford to fly across the country to be with them, so I usually ended up at someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner. It was a holiday bereft of tradition, that made me feel inferior because I’d never brined a turkey, and lacked the energy to try.
This year it was just Luca and Franny and me. I gave them a choice: I could either attempt turkey-brining, along with marshmallowed yams and cranberry chutney, OR we could have cheese fondue.
Happily for me, my kids chose fondue, a dish which actually is a tradition, and one that I make every Christmas Eve.
Franny helped me cube three types of cheese, then toss them into a saucepan with white wine, lemon, garlic and nutmeg. When it was done we poured it in the fondue pot, where it bubbled over a flame. We impaled bits of baguette and broccoli with our fondue forks, sighing rapturously as rivulets of melted, seasoned cheese cascaded down our throats.
As Franny and Luca fought each other over the last, tiny puddle of fondue, I glanced out the dining room window at the passersby. Were those quizzical looks on their faces? As in, who eats fondue on Thanksgiving?
I couldn’t tell, and I didn’t care. It was my best Thanksgiving ever.
Today, I’m thankful for my unconventional Thanksgiving.