Pilgrim, As You Journey

This is the week of the mass American pilgrimage. Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is the day we Americans travel home. It is the one holiday we all share, no matter what our religion. The day when we gather as families.

Some of us will have genuinely happy reunions. The stuff of Norman Rockwell.

image from Office of War Information 1942, wikimedia commons

Most of us will have mixed days. Something we have to hassle with a bit. Perhaps a family fuss getting out the door, and then putting up with Uncle Freddie’s bad jokes and Aunt Marge complaining that the dressing is dry. But once everyone settles in for the football, it’s all good.

For some, though, Thanksgiving can be a gut-wrenching ordeal. The hassles are extreme, and the holiday becomes an endurance test of dysfunctional abuse that demoralizes us and convinces us that we deserve nothing from life or ourselves but the crumbs of inadequacy, malcontent, and failed expectations.

Most people who persist in that brutal existence do so from habit and from the fear of change. But a brave few walk away into the unknown with the conviction that whatever lies ahead, it cannot be worse than the hell they left behind. They quit showing up for the beatings.

If you are having joyful reunions this week, we celebrate with you. Such family experiences are the source of strength that sustains us through life’s turmoil.

If you are biting your tongue in between hugs and laughter, we admire you for your tolerance and commitment. Such commitment is the foundation of civilization.

If you are suffering, our hearts and prayers go out to you in the hopes that one day, you will get out.

And if you are one of the ones who walked away, we salute you. You will be alone this week, or with close friends, or with people you barely know who have unfamiliar traditions. If you have persevered down your lonely path, you may even be with a new family by now, making Norman Rockwell jealous.

We know what it took for you to walk away, and we count you as our family. Your “not being there” didn’t come for free, and we honor the price you pay each day. It never gets easy, but it does get better. This song says it all.

Wherever you are in life’s pilgrimage this Thanksgiving, Holmes and I wish you peace. We will see you back here on Monday, November 28.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

30 comments on “Pilgrim, As You Journey

  1. Catie Rhodes says:

    I really, really liked what you said here.

    My husband and I moved away from our mutual hometown in 2003. That first year, we couldn’t get home for the hellidaze. Tragedy, right. Not so. We had the best, most enjoyable holiday season we’ve ever had.

    No drama. No arguments. No rushing around. We just did what we wanted. A relaxing, fun holiday was something neither of us had ever experienced. We’d always rushed to spend a few minutes with both our families and usually spent the day bickering. By day’s end, we always wondered where our “holiday” had gone.

    Too often, people who don’t attend the family helliday celebration are viewed with pity or confusion. Everybody wants to make sure Little Johnny (or Little Suzy) gets to the family dinner table. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though. There is nothing more fun or freeing (to me) than just taking it easy. 😀

    Sorry my reply is longer than usual.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Catie. I love your term “hellidaze.” One of my all time favorite Thanksgivings was when I had the flu the day before so I didn’t cook a thing. We stayed home and ate an Albertson’s deli chicken dinner. Our son was 10 months old, and he smeared mashed potatoes all over his head, grinning ear to ear. Like you said, no drama, no arguments, just pure joy. Eat your heart out, Norman.

      In contrast, my other favorite Thanksgiving was several years ago when our family shared the holiday with Holmes’ family. Being a pack animal, I’m never happier than when my whole pack is sharing a den. Again, no drama, no arguments, just pure joy, and Holmes making cracks about how suitable it was for me to be wearing an apron and slaving in the kitchen. Of course, I was completely graceful and let it slide. Not. 😉

      I love your long replies, Catie. Wherever you are tomorrow, I wish you no drama, and no arguments. Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Emma Burcart says:

    I am lucky to have a wonderful family, and Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. We all love to be in the kitchen cooking together, and we certainly love to eat together. My parents have always been the ones to invite and include anyone who doesn’t have a place to go. That is something I like about my family. I never know who else will be there, but they will be welcomed and fit right in. I also thought the video was very cool, even if the song was a little sad. I feel bad for the guy. And I like a happy ending.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      That sounds awesome! My life goal is to be the Granny that everyone wants to visit for the holidays. Large gatherings of people who want to be together. Sounds like that’s what you have. So very cool. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Piper, I just love your heart.

    My side of the family get-togethers hover somewhere between tongue-biting and dysfunction. Totally depends on who shows up. 🙂 But for two lovely years my sweet family and I lived ‘isolated’ on the Big Island of Hawaii. Those holidays were lovely – lazy beach days with two sweet toddling boys, no expectations or drama…*sigh*. Totally grateful for those memories!

    Loved the video.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Ok. I have to say that Thanksgiving, or any other day of the year, sounds like it would be best as a lazy beach day. What precious time! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experience. Thank you for the compliment. Happy Thanksgiving, Myndi.

  4. Perfect post, Piper. You and Holmes enrich my life. “See” you Friday.

  5. amyshojai says:

    I am very aware of how incredibly fortunate I am to have a loving, warm and slightly-off-center-normal family that I miss like crazy especially over the holidays. The “hellidays” described here and in the comments make my heart ache and I truly pray that everyone can find their ‘happy place’ for themselves and their loved ones.

    Brilliant post.

    Wishing everyone the Thanksgiving that you yearn to find.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      That’s so cool, Amy. I’m always so happy for people who come from warm, loving, quirky families. That’s the kind I try to create with my own family in the hopes that my home will be full of grandchildren some day who really want to be there. My kids say I’ve got the quirky down pat.

      And I second you. “Wishing everyone the Thanksgiving that you yearn to find.” Well said. And to you, Amy. 🙂

  6. Great song! Tomorrow many of our kids will be staying at the group home, and while they will all wish they were with families some of them will tell us it’s the best Thanksgiving they’ve ever had. Which I’m glad we can give them, but it makes me sad at the same time.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Hi Alica. I LOVE that picture of Norwegian fish whipping on your blog. What a hoot! Do Norwegians really do that?

      I’m so glad those kids have you and each other. I hope each of them can learn the strengths that come from standing alone. There is great freedom and power in walking away. A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and to both of your families. 🙂

  7. Lynn Kelley says:

    I love this post. You’ve said so much. When you talk about the ones who walked away, I think of those strong women who left an abusive relationship. Some are celebrating their Thanksgiving in a woman’s shelter, and I wish the best for them, and pray they continue to walk away as they begin a new life. I was surprised when I learned that it takes a battered woman about 7 attempts to actually be successful at leaving her abuser. Many never succeed. Plenty of them are killed, a horror society doesn’t like to deal with.

    So, yes, for everyone who has a stable and safe home, we celebrate. It would be wonderful if everyone could have a Norman Rockwell holiday.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Holmes, Piper.

    • Piper Bayard says:

      Thank you for your comment, Lynn.

      When people look from the outside, they say, “Why don’t they just leave?” But when we are born into abusive realities, very few people are actually able to compute the fact that a choice exists. Then, once we do realize, it’s a terrifying idea, because that means we have to change ourselves in ways we cannot imagine. We must act or accept the fact that we chose to stay. We must be completely cracked open and born into a new reality. It doesn’t just mean leaving the abuser, it means leaving everyone and everything we know to embrace the complete unknown. We do not know who we will be when we get there, or if there will even be a place for us. It is one of the purest acts of faith. But for those who cross over, there is no loss.

      A Happy Thanksgiving to you, as well, Lynn. 🙂

      • Lynn Kelley says:

        It’s so true, Piper. Others are quick to judge, but they have no idea what a viscious cycle it is. The abuser lies and promises to change, that it will never happen again. The woman is afraid, like you said, to start a new life, full of unknowns and no guarantees. She wants to believe him. He uses every trick in the book that he can think of to get her back. She gets lonely and her memory is selective, chosing to dwell on the good times with the abuser, downplaying the violence. So they give in and return to him, until the next episode. I know way too many women who have been in abusive relationships. Most of them are intelligent and should know better. Those women need a strong support system, and if they can’t do it for themselves, I hope they find the strength to do it for their kids.

        God bless those who help them find their way. Thanks for bringing this up, Piper. I believe that knowledge empowers, and if these women could only understand what’s happening, they would know how to resist going back to their abusers.

  8. I feel blessed to be a part of a loving family. Unfortunately my family lives very far from me. They all have stayed in Europe, while I have moved to the States several years ago. I wish they could be here with me but this year it is not possible.

    Luckily enough I have my own small family here — my husband and two children, and we always celebrate Thanksgiving at home. It’s just the four of us but we make the occasion very festive.

    I often pray for those who are sick, unhappy, or face injustice. Thanksgiving is a great day to pray even harder. In a couple of years, when my children are a bit older, I’m planning to get them involved in a charity to help the less fortunate.

    Have a happy, healthy and relaxing Thanksgiving!

    • Piper Bayard says:

      It’s difficult to be so far away from the people we love. I’m so glad we have telephones and computers to keep in touch.

      Sounds like you’ll be having a lovely day. Yea!!! A very Happy Thanksgiving to you, Angela. 🙂

  9. Omigosh Piper! So wonderful that you can find humor in the dysfunction. Tomorrow, I put on my invisible bubble wrap suit. 😉

    • Piper Bayard says:

      I’ll be thinking about you, Renee. Don’t let anyone pop the bubbles. You know how fun that is. For your sake, I’m going to imagine you in that incredibly annoying but effective bubble wrap that is impossible to pop. 🙂 Take care, and thanks for stopping by.

  10. Catherine Johnson says:

    Yes it is wonderful you can always look on the sunny side. I’m the same as Angela with family in the UK except we often get them visiting. I should be more thankful for that 🙂
    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Piper and Holmes.

  11. Next year on this day, I will likely be charting my Thanksgiving preparations–hour-by-hour–to make sure everything is ready when the family arrives. Or–alternately–one of the kids will offer to host the dinner. Do you think they’re “working me” when they say I make the following better and would I mind bringing: gravy, mashed potatoes, homemade bread, bread stuffing (EEK. A Yankee!), pineapple casserole, pecan pie and cherry cobbler?

    This year, I’ll snag my car keys at noon, drive to Sprouts, and pick up a turkey dinner for two (w/SMALL tidbits for our two yellow labs)–one of whom is recovering from ACL surgery.

    Ah! Peace. Quiet. Norman R. may be back next year.

    However you spend Thanksgiving, I wish you a day worthy of gratitude.

  12. educlaytion says:

    Look at you Piper, droppin’ a little Sum 41. Nice! My fam’s real low key this year, but we’ll pig out and sleep through some football.

  13. I’m so lucky. Our thanksgivings have been generally stress free with either friend or relatives. This year we’re staying at home. The wild turkeys behind our house seem to have gone into hiding lately, though. Either that, or Billy Bob has been busy with his gun!

    Have a good day guys.


    • Piper Bayard says:

      I’ve heard turkeys are clever birds. My granny raised them. One day, an old gobbler attacked her in the yard so she started carrying a stick and smacked the crap out of him the next time he tried. After that, he seemed to be subdued. He sidled up as if he were apologizing so she forgave him and let him in past her stick. Yep. You guessed it. When he got close enough that her stick wasn’t as efficient, he went after her again. I think that earned him the name, “Dinner.”

      Sounds like a lovely holiday, Nigel. Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Callene Rapp says:

    Lovely, Piper. Happy Thanksgiving.

  15. […] Pilgrim, As You Journey by Piper Bayard […]

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