4:00 a.m. Thanksgiving Day
There are rare occasions when I find myself wide awake in the wee hours of the night, but the reason does not originate from the stress in my life. I’m not awake because I can’t sleep. I’m awake, instead, because I have slept and quite soundly. Such was the case this morning.
I’ve already been up and made coffee, silenced my alarm before it could sound, wandered around the house checking in on each of my four sleeping children. The cats, nocturnal, vaporous beings that they are, slink past me, around me, as I move through the house, like water around boulders in some ethereal stream.
This morning I’m waxing reflective about the journey my little family has been on for the last 12 years. I ponder the heartbreaks, the tragedies, the disappointments, the obstacles, the defeats. Our lives contained our fair share and more. I take full responsibility for most of it. It seems one well-intentioned decision after another dissolved into a medley of devastatingly bad choices.
I look out my bedroom window into the darkness that is the early morning and I try to get a grip on today and what my overriding feelings are. Gradually, I become aware of one word that describes our situation today. Peace. For the first time in 12 years, our home is at peace. It’s just us, and we are all okay. Further, we are all happy to be together.
We live in a time and place of relative peace. For now, and in my lifetime, I have not had to dodge exploding shrapnel and dead bodies on my way to the market. I’ve not had to send my children off to strangers’ homes in the country so they would be safe from the bombings on my city. I experience life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a safe and relatively uncrowded area of this land. Many in this world cannot say the same.
The sun is beginning to lighten the gray skies with a slight tinge of pink. My children will likely sleep for another couple of hours, preferring, as teenagers and twenty-somethings often do, to sleep in. Today will be noisy, filled with laughter, jesting, teasing, and maybe even a sibling squabble or two. For the first time in over a decade, however, there will be no strangers at our dinner table. There will be no pretenses or false fronts sitting around our table, which we later, disappointingly and heartbreakingly discover were concealing some form of emotional or financial betrayal, abuse, or resentments. There will be no stiff formalities. There will not be the stress of me having to protect one or another of my children or the cats from whatever adult has stopped in at the wayside of our lives to sit in on judgement of me and my deplorable lack of parenting skills. There will be a remarkable lack of tension and conflict.
This morning, for as painful, for as stressful, for as difficult as this year has been, my overriding emotion is relief. We are healthy. We are safe. We are together. There will be food. (I was actually worried about that earlier this month.) We are okay, and we are going to be okay. I am moved with gratitude and an overwhelming sense of relief. Does a soldier feel this after battle when he realizes he’s still alive?
Here, in the quiet hours, the cats end their nocturnal escapades and curl up on any one of the five beds in our home. I make my way toward the coffee maker, with its warm brew which I can finally enjoy after five days of illness. As the dark brew falls steaming into my favorite mug, I vow that, as long as I am able, I will protect this tranquility. I will protect our home.