Picture if you will, Thanksgiving 1999. Remember what you were doing or who you were spending it with? Not really? Well, I do.
I was by myself, without even a slice of turkey to call my own. That was the year the Grinch of Thanksgiving stole my celebration. Oh, never heard of him? Well, in most circles he's also known as my ex. Yep, unbeknownst to me, my ex single-handedly shut down and robbed me of spending the holiday with our two children. And, make no mistake: it was my turn to have the kids. They should have been with me. Only they weren't.
I remember it well. Back then, the ex was still living with her, aka, the other woman. For personal reasons, she didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. So, my ex had followed suit. Which, at first, was working really well for me because that meant I'd be getting the kids every Thanksgiving, since, allegedly, my ex no longer gave a hoot about the holiday.
But, on this particular year, my ex and his girlfriend decided the kids didn't need to participate in Thanksgiving either. Instead, they'd keep the kids for the day and use the time to indoctrinate them on the downside of partaking in the holiday. Except, they didn't tell me about this change of plans.
So, that morning, I waited. Watching the clock and waiting, expecting the kids to be dropped off any moment. Like most families across America, I had the whole day planned out. Cooking while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade with my kids, followed by a stroll in the park in the afternoon, and later, taking the dishes we'd prepared to a friend's house for dinner. It would be a good day.
While I was stirring the cranberry sauce on the stove, and peeling the sweet potatoes, the clock kept ticking, with no sign of the kids. Maybe, I rationalized, they stopped for breakfast and were running a bit late. Not wanting them to miss the parade on TV, I set it up to record, and continued in the kitchen. Within an hour, I was stressed. I picked up the phone and did what I normally dread doing: I phoned my ex. No answer, so I left a polite, but anxious, message.
When everything was in the oven, I began to pace. Looking at the walls, I considered climbing them. I picked up the phone to make sure it was working. Dial tone. Whew. I called again. No answer. I left another message. At 2 o'clock I considered calling area hospitals. Which is when the phone rang. By this point I was ready to burst, bracing myself for the worst.
It was my ex. Clearing his throat, as if he was about to read from a ransom note, he said, in a most perfunctory way, "The kids aren't coming home. It's not in their best interests to celebrate Thanksgiving."
What? Come again?? He repeated his statement.
I expect he figured I'd easily concede, saying something like, "Oh, that's fine. I'll see them another time. Ho hum."
Instead I yelled, cajoled, pleaded, and even cried "Uncle!" And when that didn't work, I asked if I could call a lifeline, as I've seen it work on game shows. Nope. He hung up the phone. Trying to reach a settlement of any kind with my ex was akin to trying to negotiate peace in the Middle East.
I was confounded. To think, I'd spent many years living with this man, and every one of those years had been spent celebrating Thanksgiving. I started to wonder, what could be so special about this other woman that could make a grown man want to give up a national holiday? I mean, once I'd dated a guy who thought Presidents' Day was dumb, yet I'd never considered banning that holiday from my life because of it.
Well, in no mood to enjoy Thanksgiving, I took the food I'd prepared and dropped it off at my friend's house. Sullenly, I returned home, though, in a last ditch effort, I did consider conducting a stealth mission to get the kids out of my ex's house. I rejected the idea, however, once I realized I'd be outnumbered.
And so, I had to face that my Thanksgiving was cancelled. But, the following year, as fortune would have it, the girlfriend was out of the picture and Thanksgiving, with all its trimmings, was back in business. My ex, perhaps feeling sheepish about the incident, made it up to me by letting me have the kids that year and the one after. But, while all the Thanksgivings since have been just fine, I still prickle when I think of the Grinch who stole my Thanksgiving.