Sunday, February 14, 2021

The weight of V Day

I don’t really like Valentine's Day. All those hearts and flowers and candy that everybody else gets. Gross. Even when I was married it wasn’t such a big deal. LtColEx would stop at the grocery store on his way home from work, grab a card, a dozen reds and a box of Esther Price mixed and his responsibility to his valentine was bought and done. I usually baked him a cake in a heart-shaped pan I only used on V Day. I must have thrown it out. I don’t still have it. Maybe there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about throwing away my heart …. pan after the divorce. Maybe not.


I would be perfectly happy ignoring February 14 if everybody else would shut the hell up about it but Coraline doesn’t see it as a romantic holiday. She first became aware of it when she was about four. When I said I didn’t really celebrate it, she was heart-broken. “Does that mean you don’t really love me?” she asked with tears in her eyes. Awwww. Shame on me. Now I make an effort for her. I dug out a card and bought some dark chocolate Oreos and some mint M&M’s. We’re going to make a trip to our favorite local chocolatier later in the week, if blizzards don’t keep us home. She drew me a red circle on her Kindle with her drawing software. I guess it was supposed to be a heart. It’s the thought that counts. You can't really buy love with cards and gifts, right?


She’s at her dad’s for visitation today. When he picked her up, he gave her a red rose and gave me a white one. That was sweet and unexpected. I can’t even imagine my dad giving me a red rose on Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure he even gave my mom a rose, although I was probably so caught up in my own V Day kid drama, I didn’t notice if he did or didn’t.


I was born on the cusp of the baby boom and gen X. The first few years I was in school, we decorated our shoe boxes with bits of lace and red construction paper hearts and hoped somebody would put a Valentine in it during the class party. Or better yet that it would be filled with valentines, one from everybody in the class. There was no “bringing a Valentine for everybody in the class” bullshit. You decorate your shoe box and you take what you get and if you feel like shit about your measly score, you don’t let anybody know. And you certainly don't steal a handful from one of the popular kid's boxes when nobody is looking.

Yep, V Day was a popularity contest. You knew exactly where you stood in the second-grade pecking order as soon as you opened that dressed-up shoe box and looked inside. I guess it was a good warm-up for adult romance: a mix of giddy hope, excruciating let-down, and gratitude for whatever love you found tucked through the slot in your box.


The metaphor falls apart in my later years of elementary school when we were told to bring participation valentines for everybody. Didn’t matter. Still a popularity contest. In my family we got to choose one box of little sappy cards each at the store, enough to satisfy the requirement that everybody got one, including the teacher, who got the special teacher valentine. Only one problem: all of the valentines in the box weren’t created equal. Each box had one or two that were bigger than all the others. And while some said simply “Hoppy Valentine’s Day” with a picture of a frog, others said “Be mine” or “You’re special” with hearts and a kitten. I toiled for hours over which card should go to which classmate. Give the big one to my best friend? Or to the popular girl I wished were my best friend? The kids who got the most big valentines were obviously the most popular kids.  Some kids got to give valentines with a little red sucker stuck through the card or a tiny box of conversation hearts stuck to the card. I guess they didn’t have 5 kids in their family.


Fifth grade. Sweet grilled cheesus, does anybody have any good memories of 5th grade? Is 5th grade simply to prepare us for junior high? I’ve written about 5th grade a couple of times on this old blog. About being best friends with a popular girl for a year and about two boys fighting to square dance with me. It was also the year of my first kiss, which had nothing to do with Valentine’s Day so I’m not going to share that story yet. And it was the year I had my first crush on a boy in my class.

By the time we were 10 we were expected to like like a particular boy, so I told the other girls I like liked Steve A. because we’d been friends since we were about three and had even walked to kindergarten together every day. He was safe because he was like a brother. My real crush was on Clint H. though and it was a secret I carried deep inside along with my absolute belief that Bobby Sherman was my real dad. I never told a soul, not even my best friend.

I did tell Clint on Valentine’s Day though in the most awkward, painful way possible. Not only did I sort through my little box of cards and choose the one that said “Be mine” to slip into the slot he’d cut in the top of his shoe box, I also sorted out the candies with the three most romantic, loving sayings from a box of conversation hearts and stuck them in the pocket of my coat. When we all put on our coats to go outside for recess, I made an excuse to go back to my desk and waited until all the other kids had left the room. Then I lifted the lid of Clint’s desk just a little and slipped those three hearts into the pencil tray inside his desk. Covert love attack accomplished, I ran outside to play. 

I have no idea what I expected would happen. That he would somehow intuit that he should “be mine”? That Jesus was watching and would reward me for my loving gesture by making Clint like me back? Looking back, it was pretty passive-aggressive, but those were the times. Girls weren’t supposed to make the first move … or the second or third. I grew up in a time when girls couldn’t even call a boy on the phone, not even when I was in high school, so my brazen act of slipping those three candies in his desk would be an unbearable faux pas if I were discovered.

We came back in from recess, took off our coats and settled in at our desks. I watched as Clint opened his and discovered the three little candy hearts. He looked around and said, “Where did these come from?” Everybody craned to look at the hearts in his hand. I looked too, as if seeing them for the first time, as if he weren’t holding my heart in his grubby 10-year-old hand. “I bet Reticula put those there,” one of the boys – I can’t remember which one now – shouted out. “I did not,” I denied. I’m sure my face was the color of a red construction paper heart. Clint turned and looked at me, expressionless as a 10-year-old boy, and then turned back to face the front. I don’t even know if he ate my little candy hearts. I was drowning in shame and embarrassment. I couldn’t even look at him, probably for the rest of 5th grade.

Two-and-a-half years ago, and decades after I left 5th grade, my mom was dying and Clint was her lawyer. I hadn’t seen him since shortly after we graduated. One afternoon as she lay in her hospice bed, I went uptown to his office to discuss her estate. He’d been recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, and even though he looked just like an older version of his 5th-grade self, he seemed so tired and worn out, like he just wanted to get through the day. My mom died a few days later, and a year or so after Clint also died, before her estate was even settled.

Here’s what I wish had happened that day in 5th grade. I wish Clint had opened his desk and said, “Where did these come from?” and the other boy had said he thought I put them there and then, instead of hiding in my shame, I wish I’d stood up and said to the entire 5th-grade class, “I did put them there. Clint is one of the smartest kids in the school. He works hard and he never gets in trouble. He’s not mean to other kids and he’s a fast runner. Also, I think he’s cute. I put them there because I like him. There I said it. I like him.” And then I wish I’d sat down and felt not a twinge of shame. That’s what I wish had happened.


Ah, well. I've given up on sneaking the sweetest conversation hearts into boys' desks .... because that would be creepy now. I'm sorry I never got to tell Clint I was the one who put the suggestive candy in his desk in 5th grade. On the other hand, I don't think I could have stood to see that blank expression on his face again, this time because he didn't fucking remember anybody putting conversation hearts in his desk at recess. I haven't really improved in the realm of romance since 5th grade. Maybe if I'd had success that day? But probably not.

I do hope you're having a good day though. It certainly looks like everybody is happy and in love if my Facebook feed is any indication. So many flowers and chocolates and bottles of wine. If you're sitting home alone eating chocolate chips out of the freezer like I am though, here's a soothing video to make your day complete. Click it. It's my valentine to you, sweet reader.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The weight of an inauguration


I was so moved by the inauguration ceremony today that I leaked tears the entire time (and the entire day after). As the ceremony came to a close, in addition to relief, pride, and hope, I felt exhausted. Utterly exhausted. I could hardly keep my eyes open, my head up. I felt drained. Not emotionless. Not empty. Just like I need to shut down for a minute or two and stay in the space between the grief of the past 4+ years and the hope for the next four. I felt like the moon. The real, cratered moon that's been pelted by meteors for eons. I stayed alert through the long dark night of the past 4 years, and as the sun comes up, I just need a minute of rest. Or maybe a few.

We have so much work to do. I know today was a beginning, not an end. And yet, that feeling of exhaustion is still with me tonight as I write, after the afternoon parade and the evening program and the fireworks. It was all so inspiring, so dignified and joyful. My heart is full of cautious hope and yet I feel exhausted.

Some guy I don't know posted this comment on a friend's post about the inauguration: "You are the only person I have seen post anything about the inauguration today...80 million people silent. Remember when Trump won FB was swamped with flags and people excited. I still find it hard to believe 80million voters showed up on election day, but not on Bidens [sic] social media, rallies or even posting support of his big day on social media...very odd indeed."

I almost scrolled on by. I almost wrote "You're a dumbass." I almost wrote, "Shut the fuck up, you delusional piece of shit. Your guy lost and it's over." I almost wrote that my Facebook was filled with angry tears and disbelief on January 20, 2017, and I was packing to ride a bus to DC to protest in the huge, non-violent Women's March." Instead I told him my Facebook newsfeed was filled with happy, hopeful posts about Biden's inauguration (true story), and that it looked like he was hanging around with the wrong crowd. I think maybe he doesn't remember what normal looks like, what humble looks like.

Do any of us remember what normal looks like though? One of the first things we need to give up is our national addiction to drama. To always being on alert. To the constant bombardment of insults and horrible decisions; the pathological attention we've been paying to the horror show that's played out in the White House over the past four years. We have to give up the adrenaline-fueled rush of alarm, of dread, of rage, of disbelief ... it's addictive and venomous. We're like rats hitting that treat button, and the treat we get is poisoned. It's making us sick. All of us. Whether we hated Donald Trump or loved him, he is a sick man who made us sick too. And I'm afraid we've forgotten how to live without it. I'm afraid we've forgotten to expect decency, from our government and from ourselves.

Maybe the guy who wrote that comment doesn't recognize Biden's dignified, even-tempered, intelligent strength. Maybe he hasn't seen how Biden's refusal to shout and rant and seek constant attention is exactly what we need now. It's what all of us need no matter whom we voted for. We're exhausted and we're sick and we still can't let down our guard.

So today, we got what we needed: a quiet, sane, dignified, sweet transfer of ... not power, but character. A transfer of character. Just like Donald Trump was the disappointing opposite of Barrack Obama, so too is Joe Biden a different opposite of Donald Trump.

And now that Trump has shown us the worst in our country, the worst in ourselves, maybe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can help us find in our national story the heroic tale we've always wanted it to be. Maybe this is what it took to burn off the lies we tell about ourselves, our country, and start with new bones. What we've seen destroyed, we now have to build with a new vision. Together. Eyes open.

Today I felt like a burden was lifted, and I'm so joyful that burden has flown off to Florida. I hope the exhaustion I feel from carrying that heavy load of lies, gaslighting, cruelty and disdain, as we all have, gives way to new strength soon. You can't build new muscle without tearing down the old. So I'll drink a glass of chardonnay, go to bed early and plan to wake up tomorrow feeling calmer and saner, kinder and less ready to flip the rage switch, more like Joe and Kamala.

Brave enough to be the light.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

If you want to square dance with me, you have to fight

Isn't it funny what will trigger a waterfall of memories? Yesterday Coraline and I were glued to the insurrection at the Capitol building. Of course, my wish, as it always is, was that this would be the one act of an insane wannabe king that would bring us together as a nation. It seemed like a no-brainer that those of us on both sides, regardless of how we voted in November, could agree that a line had been crossed. I just keep hoping, but again I was disappointed.

This morning a Facebook friend from high school posted that the dread Antifa had infiltrated the poor hapless Proud Boys (does anybody else see a treehouse with a sign that says "no girlz alowd"?) and broke into the Capitol building just to get the Boys in trouble. Now I have to admit my imagination is somewhat limited. I just can't picture these so-called Antifa agitators researching and obtaining the proper pseudo-Viking pagan tattoos, ordering big-ass Confederate and Trump flags, stockpiling Kevlar vests and firearms, practicing their mean faces, traveling to DC, and standing maskless through Trump's hour-long plea for insurrection just waiting for an opportunity to break into the Capitol building and wander around like tourists. Except for the guy who stole a podium and this guy who sat at Nancy Pelosi's desk and wrote her a brief, but nasty, note while he scratched his balls. That ball-scratcher definitely has a beef with fascism. Or maybe it's good taste. But all the others? Really? We're supposed to believe they were Antifa actors?

On the other hand, it kind of sounds like fun. I mean, I'm against fascism. Have been since the 60's. I'm as anti-fa as a Roosevelt. So sign me up for the next infiltration of the insurrection!

But I digress ...

Several people tried to deny that the evil Antifa  was really to blame, to no avail. She's certain Antifa was up to their old tricks. Backing her up though was a name from my past -- way back in my past. A boy -- let's call him DG -- I went to school with apparently also has inside information about Antifa. He piped right up with an opinion backed by zero evidence, and suddenly I was looking at a memory reel about this boy and we were never even friends.

First thing I did was examine the palm of my hand just under the center of my first and second fingers for a small black dot that's been there since we were in second grade. It's a graphic reminder (pun intended) of the day he stabbed me and broke off the point of his pencil in my hand. I pulled the lead out afterwards, but no amount of washing would remove the graphite from the wound. I remember it took a long time to heal. I don't remember why he did it. I know I didn't tell an adult about it. I wasn't a tattle-tale. I do remember the day I served my cold revenge.

Some weeks later DG, who sat in front of me, turned around and asked me for an answer on the phonics worksheet I'd already finished. I'm surprised I was awake. I taught myself to read when I was four, so doing phonics worksheets when I was 7 was excruciating when I could have been reading a book. But boredom isn't my excuse for the answer I gave him when he showed me a drawing of a boat and asked what letter completed this word: shi_. I looked at it, covered my paper and said, "T. The answer is T." He wrote it down. I don't know what, if anything, the teacher did about that. It didn't matter. My revenge was complete.

My next memory of DG wasn't until three years later, when we !were in fifth grade. Every year we did a few weeks of square dancing in gym class. Did I mention I grew up in a small rural town in Iowa? We also learned songs from Music Man every year.

Anyway, we were told to choose partners. Fucking excruciating. One of the reasons I'd never want to be 10 again. In those days girls weren't allowed to call boys on the phone, much less choose them for partners in square dancing. And, yes, girls had to dance with boys and boys had to dance with girls. Duh.

I'm sure I suffered through the find-a-partner ritual many times but this time was different. This time DG and another boy I'll call BR both wanted to dance with .... wait for it .... me! They both came over at the same time to stand beside me and stake their claim and then ... wait for it! They started fighting over me! I am not fucking lying!

They were trying to punch each other (they weren't the kind of boys who were good fighters), grabbing each other's shirts and shoving and shouting, "She's dancing with me!" "No she's not! She's dancing with me!" And their faces were red and angry and everything!

I know it probably seems like this is the kind of thing that would happen to someone like me all the time, but I promise you, I was not the kind of girl boys fought over. Other girls -- popular girls -- were that kind of girl (although I don't remember two boys fighting over who got to square dance with any of the other girls). I was the opposite of that kind of girl, that kind of girl boys liked. Some girls even had boyfriends already, of a sort. I did not have a boyfriend and it wasn't because of my daddy's shotgun. I didn't even think any boys in my school liked me, although there was one boy in my class I wished would like me.  (I will confess I had my first three-way that year, but that's another story.)

I don't remember whom I ended up doing the do-si-do with that day. Someone with sweaty palms, I'm sure. The only reason the incident stuck in my memory is because it was so unexpected and extraordinary. First, because I'm not that girl. And second, because boys just didn't fight in school.

The end of the anecdote is not that I suddenly found myself with two boyfriends who hate each other to this day because neither could have all of me. I guess they used up all their courage that day. BR did ask me to homecoming our freshman year, but I was waiting for his cousin, two years older and with a driver's license, to ask me so I told him I already had a date, and then I went with his cousin. We were close friends through high school though and he never pulled a Nice Guy on me.

DG and I were not ever friends. He was a bit of an outcast and he wasn't even close to being in any of my circles. I doubt we ever even went to the same party. But I do remember this. One of the other boys scratched out his photo in my senior yearbook and wrote "loser" over the top of it in pen. I was pissed, but it couldn't be fixed. DG kept asking me if he could sign my yearbook and I kept putting him off. He got more and more insistent, but I didn't want him to see his photo and think I had done it. Even if I explained what happened, I thought it would hurt his feelings. Now I remember he probably suffered worse in high school. I'm sure he was bullied, but he was also pretty arrogant so  who knows? Maybe he had feelings of steel and I put him off for nothing.

I don't know if he ever signed my yearbook and I don't care enough to get it out and look now, because decades later that boy is a man and he seriously thinks some brilliant group known only as Antifa infiltrated those bad-ass Proud Boys yesterday and made it look like they broke down doors and windows and took over the Capitol building when those proud Proud Boys were actually just innocent, peaceful demonstrators who were trying to save their poor embattled leader from ... well, from prison actually, but let's not go there. He believes those meek and mild Proud Boys were the soft, squishy victims, punked at their own insurrection ... yeah, I just can't care now whether he saw his defaced photo (is that even a pun?) in my yearbook in 1976.

Thanks for reading my trip down memory lane though. I know this post is random as hell, but in case you haven't noticed, 2021 has been showing its ass this week and this is the first fucking week of the year. Let's hope it gets better before it gets worse, my friends, or I'll be writing about that three-way I had with two boys when I was ten years old just to keep myself away from the news.

Note: My friend who posted the original post is my friend. We agree on many things and we don't agree on some things. Some of those things are important to me. Not as important as my friendship with her.

Friday, November 20, 2020

I write

I recently went to a writer's conference in my dining room. Pretty much the only way I'm going to get to one, COVID or not. Someone asked in a break-out session why I write a blog. It's certainly not because bloggers are well respected in the writing community. Quite the opposite. Anybody can write a blog, after all. And in case you haven't heard -- because obviously you haven't if you're reading this -- nobody reads blogs any more. It's a fair question, and one I need to answer for myself, since I keep coming back here and writing.*

The most compelling reason for writing here is because I need the income. I make a ton of money writing blog posts and if you'll give me $2000, I'll show you how I do it.

The most compelling reason I do it is because after doing it for so many years, and after writing almost 750 posts, I just need to do it. My Muse, Dolores, is not someone who likes to be put in the corner. If I go too long with her whispering ideas and words and sentences in my ear, I start to feel anxious. I feel a need to get her voice out of my head. I learn from what I write, and putting words on paper or a screen, helps me sort things out, see things more clearly. And being the extrovert I am, having an audience is the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie. Being my own audience, not so much.

Another reason I write is somewhat more altruistic. Because I can write whatever I want (1st Amendment and all that), I write whatever I feel like writing in the moment I'm in. I do not publish everything that happens in my life, but I do tackle some difficult topics when the need arises. I can't tell you how many times I've written a post that I almost didn't publish because it felt too raw or I felt too vulnerable or I didn't think people would get it, and not only did a lot of you get it, some of you actually needed to read it as much as I needed to write it.

Few things are more gratifying to me than getting an email or a message that says, "Thank you for writing that. I have the same problem [went through the same thing] [have the same fears] [worry about this too], but I don't have the words to express it myself." Some people don't feel safe writing it down, and I get that. Sometimes I write things that turn out to feel not so safe. Some people haven't been able to put into words what they're feeling. That's my job as a writer, and it's a privilege to do it.

I know what it's like to have my voice silenced, whether by someone else or by my own fears. When I can put something into words that are meaningful and helpful for someone else ... it's just the best feeling. 

The third reason I write here is entirely selfish. I like the attention. I love it when I can start a conversation that continues past what I write. I love it when someone comes up to me at a party (back when such a thing existed) and tells me how much they loved a particular post, and how it made them laugh or cry or, best of all, both. More than once I've been at a party and someone has introduced me to a stranger as "Reticula. You should read her blog. It's really funny and she writes a lot about vaginas." It's a great conversation starter, and I like being the vagina-writer.

One of the best times though was at a party where we were playing Cards Against Humanity. No other game loosens people up as much as that one. One of the players was someone I knew from the theater community, but had never met in person. He made a comment about something he'd read. It was obviously this blog he was talking about, so I responded and we talked for a minute. Finally he said, "Wait! Are you Reticulated Writer? That's you?"

I said, "Well .... yeah. I thought you knew that. You brought it up."

"I didn't!" he said. "I just love your blog. I read it all the time."

That's a high, my friends. It's like one millionth of a percent of being famous. It's like being a hair on Dolly Parton's wig. Heady stuff.

Those are my top reasons, and I guess some of my reasons are also reasons you read here too. Maybe you like what I say or the way I say it. I don't dare think a lot about why other people read here, because even though I write for an audience in my head, I don't want to feel censored by that imagined, yet real, audience. I censor myself, but this is my living room and nobody else should be able to silence the telling of my story.

I have written posts that pissed people off before. There was that one guy I dated who didn't like what I wrote about him, even though every bit of it is true. One thing I don't do is lie here. I took it down and I've always regretted it. It was my story and if he didn't like the way he acted in my story, he shouldn't have dated a writer. Especially not a red-headed writer.

I know I'm not everybody's cup of tea. Otherwise I'd have a big book deal like some of the uber famous bloggers. It's not like I'm turning down offers from Penguin or Random House, and The New Yorker is only offering me a free tote bag with my one-year subscription.

Some people have complained that I don't write about vaginas enough these days. I agree! I need to get on that. Others used to complain that I wrote about vaginas too much. I said at least I wasn't writing about my own. What's the problem? A couple of people even unfriended me on Facebook over vagina posts. That's OK with me. If somebody comes here and finds offense, that's on them. I tell the truth here and every post is authentically me. Once my words are published, I have no control over how people absorb or react to what I'm saying. Here's what I do when I'm offended by content on a blog or website though. I move my handy cursor arrow right to the little X on the right side of the tab for that page and I click it. Poof. It's gone like Donald Trump's tan when he takes a shower. 

Here's the bottom line. I love knowing 99% of you who are reading this are here because you like what I write, you enjoy reading it, and we have some kind of connection through my words. I am grateful that I can imagine myself talking to you like this, as friends. Even as a confidant. It helps, especially now when we're so isolated. In the lonely hours of the night when I usually write, it helps to know that some of you will read my words and get to know my heart and mind and like me anyway.

Stay safe and well, my friends. 

*I've already written over 2500 words today that I can use for NaNoWriMo. I'm still on track if I keep my butt in the chair.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020: It's going to be OK


I had to laugh when a friend posted this today.

I think I've written a Thanksgiving post every year for the past 10 years. I'm too lazy to check. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it falls during NaBloPoMo, when I usually post a blog post every day in November. This year I'm not doing NaBloPoMo and I'm not planning that big Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not offering invitations to friends and strangers who have no place to go or who don't feel welcome with their family or who would just rather let someone else do all that cooking ... or my kids, who don't really have a choice on their mom's favorite holiday. I don't celebrate Easter and I'll even give up Christmas Day (although it turns out they won't. God love them) but Thanksgiving is my day.

This year -- the year of 2020 -- my day has been coopted by a tiny, vicious, virulent, politicized, stupid-head virus. Although I still have much to give thanks for, Thanksgiving won't be the same. And you know what? I'll get through it and so will you if we're smart and lucky and we manage to stay healthy. Some of us won't be so lucky ... but this is about Thanksgiving.

Here's how I know I can get through a Thanksgiving with just my 9-year-old granddaughter Coraline and me at the table: I've done it before. I was a military wife for over 20 years, and I've been alone on my favorite holiday more than once. 

The first time I was 23 and we were stationed at Robins AFB in Georgia, living in a duplex in base housing. It was our first year there, and we'd been there less than a year. I don't remember where LtColEx was -- England, maybe Iceland or Alaska. He was a navigator on a KC-135 refueling plane, so he flew all over the world and was sometimes TDY (temporary duty) for weeks or months at a time. We couldn't afford for me to fly to Iowa, and I didn't want to make the long drive alone. So I stayed home alone. 

And it wasn't so bad. My overtly Christian neighbors across the street brought over a plate from their dinner for me. Bless them. They didn't approve of me. I blasted Led Zeppelin from the speakers in our little white Chevette when I washed it in the driveway; they blasted fiery sermons back, hoping to save unsuspecting passersby or better yet, me. I was immune, but I accepted the plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and dressing with gratitude, and they safely discharged their Christian duty.

Later I went next door and ate dinner with our friends Sharon and Dave, who shared bedroom walls with us. They had made turkey with all the trimmings too, and I was even invited to eat at their table. It was just the three of us, and we had a lovely low-key dinner.  I saved the other plate for the next day.

The next year LtColEx was home, only he wasn't home. He was sitting alert at the  alert facility near the airfield on the other side of the base. Alert means just what it sounds like: Air Force fliers standing ready in case they need to take off quickly and go drop a bomb on something. Every three weeks if they weren't TDY the flyers had to live together in a little dorm-like facility so they could stay close to the four B-52 bombers and four KC-135 refuelers that sat on a special runway inside a second security gate. There was a family visitation center nearby with a large gathering space, a kitchen with a microwave, and three small private rooms with a couch and a TV in two of them. In the evenings the flyers would meet their wives and kids, if they had them, to spend a few hours together.

That year I cooked our turkey dinner at home and transported it to the family center in our big wooden picnic basket that had been a wedding gift. We got lucky that night and arrived in time to get one of the rooms with a TV, where we ate our dinner and watched one of three fuzzy channels and were glad we were together.

The next year we were both home, and I made the turkey dinner for us and for Dave, who was TDY and staying in the officer's quarters that year. He and Sharon had gotten orders to another base earlier in the year. We also hosted one of the first women to navigate the KC-135s. She arrived two hours late so the turkey was dry and the mashed potatoes were cold, but we still enjoyed our Thanksgiving, because we were together.

I've got decades of Thanksgivings under my belt now. The kids and I spent a couple of them without LtColEx, because he was in Korea or somewhere else. For years my little brother came every year and always made the gravy, which is my nemesis.  Now he lives 700 miles away, and he has his own Thanksgiving dinner with his close friends. I've always invited people to be with us if I could, and some came year after year, and then for various reasons were replaced by other friends. Often I'll post an invitation on Facebook for anybody who doesn't have a place to go just to keep the "giving" in Thanksgiving.

Also, I love feeding people, and I love feeding people a big traditional turkey dinner. I've done it so often the menu rarely changes: roast turkey, bread sage stuffing (I tried a delicious wild rice with dried apricots stuffing one time and my kids threatened mutiny if I did it again), mashed potatoes, gravy that doesn't set up until after dinner because now I have to make it myself, green beans with bacon and almonds, sweet potato casserole with apples and marshmallows, homemade cranberry sauce, Grandma Bolton's secret-recipe rolls, fresh pumpkin pie and dark chocolate bourbon pecan pie with homemade whipped cream. (Cool Whip is not allowed in my house. Don't even try. That shit isn't real food.)

Some of my best holiday memories come not from Christmas, but from Thanksgiving. The year I killed my own turkey and she was so long (not balled up like a store-bought turkey), she kicked the lid off the roaster and I had to put a 10-pound weight on it to hold the lid down. The year I started the oven on fire and almost burned up the bread and the pies. The year Colorado's husband-at-the-time stood out in the kitchen after the dishes were done and the rest of us had gone to the living room and ate all the turkey leftovers. We got rid of him. Jerk. The first Thanksgiving after LtColEx moved out and my sister and  brother flew in from Iowa and Minneapolis. I upped my game and made homemade butter while they sat at  my kitchen bar and we talked and drank wine. When it was finally done we spread it on homemade bread, so eager to try it, and it tasted .... just like butter. Any butter. Fucking Kroger butter. The year one annual guest announced three times that she'd rather get Chinese food and watch a movie than do Thanksgiving dinner the next year. I had to physically restrain Colorado. We lost her in a divorce. Buh bye. The year I made the regular turkey and a Tofurkey because I was a vegetarian, and the Tofurkey was so bad even the dog wouldn't touch it. Who knew tofu isn't meat? Three years ago when I went home to Iowa for my mom's big 80th birthday party, and we turned around the next day and had Thanksgiving together on Sunday, because that's when she liked to do her dinner so everybody could make it. Except me. I hadn't been home for Thanksgiving in decades. We didn't know it would be her last Thanksgiving as we ate our smoked turkey and my brother's good gravy. I could go on, but you probably have your own memories.

And what about Thanksgiving 2020? What will we say about Thanksgiving when we look back on this year? I'm not sure yet how it will go, but here's what I expect.

Plan A. Even though I'm not inviting anybody over, I will get a turkey and  roast it in my roaster. And then after I take the meat off that bird, I'll probably  put it back in the roaster and make some soup stock. Or maybe I won't. I won't feel guilty if I don't. I'll make the mashed potatoes and gravy, the green beans, some sour dough rolls, a fresh pumpkin pie, and maybe even a wild rice stuffing with dried apricots. I probably won't make the sweet potatoes or the cranberry sauce, because the two of us can only eat so much. Coraline and I will enjoy our dinner, because it will be delicious. Maybe we'll video chat with family and friends throughout the day. Maybe we'll watch a movie that we have to pay for. We'll still stuff ourselves like any other Thanksgiving and then we'll take the dog for a walk so we can eat more later.

I'll find out if the single guys who live on either side of me are home and I'll take them a plate and tell them next year I'll expect them at my dinner table. 

We will not go inside anybody else's house, and we'll feel fine, because we're keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. And because we still have blessings to count. And we'll have tons of left-overs!

Plan B. My son Drake and my daughter-in-law Montana have a big yard -- almost an acre. If the weather is nice, we might bring our dinners together and eat outside, socially distanced, masked when we need to. Plan B is looking less likely as the COVID numbers skyrocket here in Ohio though. Our governor can't find his balls to do anything more than urge us to wear masks and weakly enforce a curfew for the fucktards who insist on partying in bars, but the board of health in my county has issued a stay-at-home advisory, which we are going to follow.

Also, Montana is an ER nurse, and as the COVID beds are now all full, the ER staff are taking care of more and more COVID patients. We'll judge the safety of an outdoor dinner next week. We don't want our 2020 Thanksgiving memory to be .... well, you know.

Here's one thing I know: We can all get through a Thanksgiving, and even a Christmas, either alone or with only the people we live with. We can. I've done it. We may be sad, but sad is better than dead or damaged for life. Feelings are temporary. COVID too often is not.

Oh, I forgot about Plan C. Once I can safely do it, I'm going to have the biggest Thanksgiving dinner ever and I'm going to fill my house and my porches and my yard with people eating and giving thanks. I don't care if I do it in July or September or April. I will reclaim Thanksgiving from 2020 and I will make many more Thanksgiving memories to hold in my heart.

Please stay safe and well as we roll into what will be an unusual and difficult holiday season, my friends. We can do this.