We pulled into our driveway. Back to our familiar little house, back to our familiar little life. The comfort was quickly replaced by screaming: toddler screaming. Jackson started yelling. “Kimmy house! Kimmy house!” He fell asleep in mid tantrum when we left my sister’s house, three hours earlier, and resumed as soon as we got home. He stomp-cried his way up the front steps as my hands shoved gently guided him through front door. This was met with more crying; as if he was in desperate despair and “Kimmy house” were the only words he knew. “He is hungry” I translated walking into the familiarity of my house. A house that nailed the mannequin challenge: everything still in a state of disarray created by trying to usher four children in the car. A reminder of that Wednesday morning was frozen in time, the drawers were half open in failed attempts to match socks and the dishes were stacked in a failed attempt to load the dishwasher. I sifted through our refrigerator and pantry for a quick snack and realized the reality of being out of town – no grocery shopping. After contemplating serving him Ketchup, I looked around for traces of his three approved meal options, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or cereal. His fierce loyalty to keeping his coat off made me hesitant to try anything else, but the only real food option we had was leftover thanksgiving dinner. I tried some mashed potatoes. “No! Peanut butter jelly!” He demanded, jamming his hood over his head as a cold reminder that he was in charge. “We don’t have any bread.” I reasoned. “How about turkey?” As if that was some secretly approved menu item no one told me about. “Go Kimmy house!” His back stiffened and he was slinking out of the chair. Shit is getting real – he is taking this tantrum to the floor. I opened the pantry in my own quest to find Dory – the Dory themed box of mac and cheese. I see cereal, Chocolate Cheerios, and do a quick victory twirl. “Coco Cereal?” I suggest. The crying stops like a glimpse of sunshine over the gray clouds. “Jackson want coco cereal.” (Yes I am raising Tarzan). I empty the last of the cereal into his bowl and topped it with the remaining milk. He begins to devour the cereal and looks up at me. “Jackson want coco milk” he requests. I point out the newly formed chocolate milk in his bowl. He sips for a second. “Jackson want coco milk” he says again. “How about apple juice?” I fill one of his cups with juice and try to find a straw lid. He is partial to the straws lately over the sippy lids, one more step toward cup independence. I can’t find the straws. Damn, probably buried in the pile of dishes I have yet to load or attached to stray cups tucked under the couch, or bed, or any other random place I cringe to think milk is hiding. “No lid!” He yells as I had him the juice. He is kicking his feet against the table. I see a cereal spill in the near future and sit on the chair next to him, finally removing my coat and shoes – ready to reason.
Me: No Straw, lid. Do you want to sit in time-out?
Toddler: Straw! Straw! Straw!
Me. No straw, lid. Time out!
Toddler: Straw. Jackson want straw!
Me. Time out?!
Jackson: Go to Kimmy house!
Finally, I removed the lid and he drank the juice.
I like to refer to this phenomenon as a Thanksgiving hangover. We all had it. The sluggish movements, the desperation not to go back to normal conflicted with the need to be relaxed and settled at home while doing absolutely nothing. Thanksgiving is a time of indulgence. I am thankful for food on the table: so I eat so much food that it drowns my stomach in a gluttonous decadence; so thankful for family that we over indulge in the warmth and the buzz of togetherness. The good parties always result in an emotional hangover. When I have a good time, it is easy to feel a hesitation to jump back into normal routine. I just want to keep the party going. As a parent of a toddler, I know the price of any party and it is a multiple day hangover – the kind that used to come with epic nights of tequilla. In that moment, I realized what I was truly thankful for. In those final defining months of my working life, I couldn’t afford a multiple day hangover. It would have grabbed hold of me, around my neck so I was barely breathing. There were always deadlines, and schedules that weren’t mine. I am thankful for the moment we pulled in the driveway and I was no longer hung over. My home, my life- my little adventure of a life-now on my terms. We will be back to normal, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day. That night I ate two pieces of pie for dinner. After, I ran to the neighborhood convenience store and did one of my most normal tasks: I grabbed a gallon of milk and a bottle of wine.