Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone in a flurry of activity; running around finishing all the different odd jobs we had procrastinated on over the summer, preparing our house for guests.
For 17 years, Thanksgiving weekend has been a big deal in the Cractpot household. For 17 years we have gathered all the people that we love to help us celebrate our blessings and to take a moment to enjoy all that we have been given.
17 years ago, Thanksgiving weekend started with a flurry of activity; running around finishing all the different odd jobs we had procrastinated on, preparing our house for one very special guest. A guest who brought a depth of meaning to the words, ‘family’ and ‘gratitude’, that we had previously been unable to grasp. Someone who has become the guest of honour at every Thanksgiving dinner from then on.
For us, Thanksgiving is a time to gather family and friends around our table to celebrate the birth of our first child. She has truly helped us to become the very best versions of ourselves, refining our priorities and our outlook of the world. Our perspective has forever changed for the better, thanks to her.
And perspective is a powerful thing.
For as long as I can remember stories being told around the dinner table, an old favourite has been the one, whose punch line is my husband showing up for school wearing girls’ jeans. Legend has it, my mother in law was given some hand-me downs and failed to mention that the previous owner had been female. Like most teenagers, my husband stumbled out of bed, half asleep and already late and simply didn’t realize the faux pas until the fluorescents in the school’s halls lit up the ‘Road Runner’ label and pink stitching.
This story has also come in handy when guilting my children into wearing various perfectly good articles of clothing that was sitting in their closets untouched. “Daddy’s mom made him wear girl’s jeans to school and he survived for goodness sakes, surely wearing this lovely dress for church won’t kill you.”
At no point did I ever sit down and ask for another side of the story.
Until this Thanksgiving.
You see, earlier in the week, in the midst of working extra shifts, and shopping for extra food and cleaning extra well for an extra busy weekend, I received a phone call from my youngest. He had just arrived at school and I was still in the process of clearing up the wreckage left in the kitchen now that we had decided to make our lives easier by having the kids make their own lunch for a change.
Spoiler: Our lives are in fact no easier thanks to the sheer amount of dishes it apparently takes three kids to make one lunch and two snacks each. (It’s all of them. All of the dishes)
He explained that he had forgotten that he had a cross country meet that day and he was wearing skinny jeans; potentially the worst possible outfit for long distance running available in the history of fashion. He asked me to bring him a pair of track shorts and to meet him at the school.
Standing in the middle of a upside down kitchen, with dogs just waiting for the opportunity to ‘help me’ clean up, I warned him that I might have to meet him at the field instead. If parenting has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that I’m going to be late…
all of the time.
Obviously I started my search in the drawer where the shorts should have been. I did find some but a closer inspection revealed that they were size 6x. Now because my son is apparently doing all of his growing up before starting to grow out, they probably would have still fit, but if my teenage girls aren’t allowed to wear hot pants to school, it probably wasn’t appropriate to let my pre teen son wear them either.
Undiscouraged I systematically emptied his entire closet before pulling out everything from under his bed. A little disgusted (under a boy’s bed is a dark and dirty place where no mother should really venture alone) but still undeterred, I moved on to the clean laundry basket. From there I searched the dryer which was filled with clean clothes that I quickly folded before wondering if the shorts had somehow made their way to his sisters’ closet by mistake. Still no luck.
Now that almost every room possessed the same level of chaos as my kitchen, I was now, in fact, getting discouraged. I moved on to the dirty laundry, more than a little desperate, armed only with a spray bottle of essential oils and the hope that if he ran fast enough, none of his classmates would be able to smell him. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I could still not find any trace of gym shorts that was not circa 2010.
A quick glance at my watch confirmed that I was moving from being ‘late’, to ‘too late’, so I decided I would just stop at the closest Walmart and grab a pair on the way to the field. Even though we were not the most athletic family, our collection could obviously use an update. Now tall and lanky 12 year old boys don’t quite fit into men’s clothing, but they are absolutely not going to be caught dead in the immature stylings of the children’s department either. My options were shorts with cartoon characters on them, or sleep shorts that had an awkwardly placed button on the fly. I’m not going to lie, for a moment I looked around and wondered if I could just gnaw it off like the feral animal that I currently felt like, but common sense prevailed. I grabbed a bunch of hangers off the rack and figured one of them would work.
Upon arriving at the meet I wasted several valuable minutes scanning the sea of faces for one that I recognized. Sure that he would be desperately looking for me as well, I walked up and down the main path talking to teachers and other students to no avail. As I widened my search radius, I got more and more flustered until I finally found my son, leisurely throwing stones into the lake like he didn’t have a care in the world.
“WHY ON EARTH WEREN’T YOU LOOKING FOR ME???”, I shouted, to which he responded, “I was! I’ve been watching the whole time!”
I was about to remind him, that I am not Jesus and cannot, in fact, walk on water, but I was rendered utterly speechless when I saw his feet.
“Where are your gym shoes???” I asked, looking at the well worn crocs he had chosen as his footwear that morning despite the fact that his day did not appear to include garden work, a walk on the beach or apparently any fashion sense.
“At school. They’re indoor shoes Mum.”
“But you need them to run your race”
“But they’re indoor shoes, Mum“
At this point I could completely sympathize with any parent who had ever taken their child by the ear and dragged them to the car but due to the large number of witnesses I simply herded him towards our vehicle with stern words. I instructed him to quickly slip into his choice of shorts while I drove to a little second hand store, the only place close enough to hopefully find athletic shoes and still make it back in time for the race.
He was muttering apologies and thanks from the back seat of the car until he stopped short. A quick glance in the rear view mirror reflected a very sheepish look in his eye.
“What? What is it?” I questioned from the front.
“I just remembered. I wore my track shorts to bed last night. I must have forgotten to take them off this morning. I was wearing them under my jeans the whole time. Isn’t that funny”
For a moment I debated driving directly into the oncoming traffic. I tried to distract myself by wondering how on earth he was even able to get his skinny jeans over top of his track shorts before deciding not to try to decipher the fashion choices of the boy wearing crocs and socks.
The moral of the story is that when we arrived at the second hand store, we of course, had zero luck finding a pair of boy’s athletic shoes that fit. We did, however, find a very nice pair of women’s size 7 that fit perfectly.
We managed to make it back just in time for him to get into his starting line up and it’s entirely possible that some of his fellow classmates happened to look down and wonder what on earth he was wearing on his feet. It is also possible that one day, he will meet a lovely young girl and make her laugh by telling the story whose punchline is him showing up for cross country wearing girls’ shoes.
If she happens to make it to one of our Thanksgiving dinners, I hope she remembers that there are always two sides of the story.
Perception is a powerful thing and how you perceive something is based entirely on what you have experienced. As my daughter gets ready to head out into the world I hope before she finds herself judging someone, she takes a moment to listen to their story. The more we know, the easier it is for us all to sit down at the same table, share a glass of wine (and hopefully a laugh) and really recognize what we have to be thankful for.
Because you just never know when the shoe will be on the other foot. Or if that shoe might, in fact, be the exact opposite of what society expects from you. We’re all just trying our best to make do with what we’ve been given and unless you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes, regardless of the style, we simply can’t judge.
Unless they’re wearing crocs and socks…because that is just wrong.
Judge tenderly, if you must. There is usually a side you have not heard, a story you know nothing about, and a battle waged that you are not having to fight~Traci Lea Larussa