For years, my husband has begged that we go away for the holidays. So this year we did. Now we’re back just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving at our house with thirty-five family members. I don’t think this is what Scott had in mind, but we compromised. And I really shouldn’t be blogging tonight. There’s still so much to do. But the pumpkin pies are done. I even cut special little dough leaves this year for decoration.
The laundry is finished for at least the next five minutes, seven loads since last night, but it’s not put away, and I keep finding sandy clothes strung through the yard. My house is decent, thanks to my mom coming over while we were gone and mopping our floors. Of course, the boys immediately dirtied the floors when we got home.
The beach was great. The first day some of the nicest weather I’ve ever seen in Bodega Bay, but now I’m playing catchup with everyone coming. I’m contemplating not doing much more. Just hollering, “Welcome! Make yourselves at home! Feel free to put some laundry away while you’re here,” when guests arrive tomorrow.
I believe in family helping family. Fourteen-year-old, John, patiently taught his six-year-old brother, Cruz, to sand surf at the beach. Twelve-year-old Joey and nine-year-old Garry dug a hole together in search of sand crabs. Or maybe to just watch the water rush in their hole. It’s a rare day when Joey plays well with Garry James.
I did my thing, walking quietly off by myself to collect shells, while the boys ran around with their shorts on fire. The boys all joined in grabbing some shells for me. I kept throwing live sand dollars back into the ocean after the boys would dump them in my bag and run off. A few live sand dollars somehow got left in my shell bag, and by the time we got home, they stank. Badly. Scott laid them out on the sidewalk to dry and our lab ate them. She also destroyed most of my other shells that were airing out with the dollars. I guess she was mad we left her home.
We kissed because we always kiss at the beach. Making our kids photograph us kissing because we like grossing out our sons. Later, we walked down and ate dinner at The Tides. If you live in NorCal and visit the beach, you’ve probably heard of this legendary restaurant. Alfred Hitchcock ate here when he was filming his famous movie: The Birds in Bodega.
The following day dawned wet and rainy. I stayed in the hotel room to write while Scott took the boys to another beach. The beach dumb dads take the kids to without their sensible wives.
You can see the terror on Cruz’s face. The good news, for a first grader, Cruz is incredibly fast. He outruns two of his big brothers, and when it comes to the ocean, he’s got more common sense then the rest of them put together. Until the cliffs come into play. Cruz may fear big waves, but big walls of earth are no match for him. Or his brothers.
Can I tell you cliff-goating makes me mad? I refuse to go to these high places anymore with the boys. “I deleted some of my pictures,” Scott admitted. “They scared me. They would have terrified you.”
No kisses for dumb dad on the second day.
I’m glad I stayed in the room and put my characters through the ringer instead. Watching my boys on one of the most dangerous beaches in the world, and then springing around the cliffs, would have put me through the ringer. I would have been that crazy mom on the endless stairs down to the beach, screaming, “Follow me! Use the stairs! Don’t be stupid! Do you think you’re a seagull?! Oh. My. Word!” All the while praying I survive the heart attack I’m having.
I don’t recommend taking a trip if you’re hosting Thanksgiving a day or two later. I’ve also been on a writing roll and keep plunking myself in front of my computer to move my characters from San Francisco by ship to Bodega Bay, where they mount horses and ride the nine hours to Fort Ross. Today, you can drive to the old Russian fort in an hour from Bodega Bay. But in 1850, when my new book takes place, horses were the safest route to the fort because an ocean landing at Ross was dangerous. It was fun to write these scenes in Bodega Bay on a stormy day. And I’m sure the Bicknell boys would have chosen the ocean landing.
The Bicknells love the ocean, but there’s no place like home for me. I was so happy to sleep in my own bed last night. Scott said the same thing. “I guess we’re getting old. Our bed is the best place in the world.”
This evening, after feeding our chickens and horse, we walked to the mailbox together. A card with familiar handwriting waited for me. It’s been a few years since I’ve gotten a Thanksgiving card. I used to get one every year, and then they didn’t come for a while. When I opened the card, tears filled my eyes.
“I am thankful for you,” the card read. Anna’s mom sent it to me.
Anna won’t be at our Thanksgiving table tomorrow. Her parents and siblings probably won’t either. It’s too painful for them to come and Anna does Thanksgiving in Heaven now. At the table up there, no tears ever fall. I was feeling kind of overwhelmed preparing for Thanksgiving today, and then I got this card. I set it right above my kitchen sink with a small plaque that reminds me of Anna. Then tears fell because this isn’t heaven.
If the holidays overwhelm you, take a deep breath, and remind yourself you are here. Your children are here creating laundry for you. You’re cooking a twenty-pound turkey and a ten-pound ham for the people you love. Many of you still have full tables without anyone missing. Life can be beautiful and brutal, sometimes on the same day. Weep with those who weep. Laugh with those who laugh. And for goodness sake, be grateful. Because gratefulness is the best medicine you can take to cure an overwhelmed heart on the holidays.