Byrdhood: Thanksgiving Lilyana Style

The guessing games are over and I don’t have to wonder what it feels like to be one any more. I can stop looking at babies in grocery carts pushed by women who look a bit too old to be their moms and stop feeling jealous. I also can look on Face Book at all the pictures of everyone else’s grand children, and now feel the camaraderie: I’m a Grandma.

As of 7:33 PM, November 22, 2012 (which, by the way was Thanksgiving Day, my favorite holiday), I joined the ranks of millions and possibly billions of women who have gone on before me: Eve, Grandma Moses, the old woman who lived in a shoe, Mother Goose (I know, she’s a bird, but then again, so am I), my lovely grandmothers, Edna and Annis, Sarah Palin, my mother-in-law, Patricia and my mother, Virginia, who is my hero, weighing in with eighteen grandchildren and plenty of bragging rights.

Arriving a couple days ahead of the blessed event, to ensure that I wouldn’t miss one jot or tittle of the labor and delivery of John’s and Mesha’s baby, I found myself staying at Peter and Isaaca’s house in Nashville, Tennessee.  All of my children live there and we were hoping to kill two birds with one stone; celebrate Thanksgiving together and have a baby while Bill and I were visiting everyone.  It always helps to have a plan, right?

With plans in mind for Thanksgiving Eve, I put together a hearty stew and invited all the kids over, setting the trap, luring them to help me prepare for the next day’s feast by plying them with good food and wine. It worked!  Cody was the DJ, playing his favorites- Merle Haggard and George Jones.  We alternately ate, danced, chopped vegetables, made cakes and watched the oven while we also kept watch on another oven…our radiant, gloriously pregnant, Mesha.

She was fascinating to watch in her pregnant splendor, her dark hair spilling over her shoulders, her belly stretching to seemingly unnatural limits and her legs and feet a bit swollen from carrying the extra weight.  She sat as a queen upon the couch, all of us anxious to jump at her requests, bringing her more bread, propping up her feet, pouring her more water, all the while wondering when her body timer would go off and make a buzzing sound, alerting us all that the baby was done and needed to come out of the oven. I supposed she fascinated me so much because she carried my first grandchild, my own flesh and blood besides my own children and the next cycle of life in our family.

We got the call at 3:15 AM, Thanksgiving morning.  “Momma Byrd…my water’s broken and I’m having trouble waking up John”. I don’t know why men want to turn back over go back to their dreaming when they hear news like that in the dead middle of the night, but he did, believing that she had to be joking.  Mesha cried, “I was dreaming that my water broke and I woke up and jumped out of bed and it broke…right there on the floor”. There was no time to spare, I thought. “Bill and I will be over in about twenty minutes.  Girl, this means you are, for sure, having a baby…Today”!  I clicked “end” on my cell phone and went to wake up Bill.

She labored all day and early on it became obvious that we would miss the Thanksgiving feast.  I called Natalie, Stacey and Isaaca and said, “Looks like we’re having the baby today.  You girls are going to have to cook everything we didn’t cook last night”, which was really a lot of food because we were too fascinated with Mesha to do much cooking. “I know we had big plans, but you guys just cook the turkey, ham, dressing and make all of the side dishes.  I know you can do it.” And just like that, I shirked all of my normal Thanksgiving duties as “the mom” and handed them off to the second generation so that the third generation could be born.

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At about 6:00 PM, the kids began to wander up to the second floor of the hospital to wait out the birth.  All of the men stayed in the waiting room and my daughters and I watched Mesha and John have the baby.  Even though I had birthed six of my own, I had never actually watched a baby being born. Mesha wowed us all as she let her body take over and push out another human being, another little girl, our Lilyana Espen Byrd.

With my eyes full of tears and my heart filled to the brim with wonderment and joy at the sight of my Thanksgiving bundle of love, I looked around the room, busy with women cleaning up an exhausted but relieved and beautiful Mesha, nurses clamoring to make sure the baby was normal, all  eight pounds, eleven ounces of her royal highness, Princess Lilyana!  My daughters were punch drunk with “aunthood” and my son, beaming with pride looked good in his new role of fatherhood, as he gazed lovingly into the face of his perfect daughter.  One by one, the men in my family, the new grandpa, Bill and uncles, Jeremy, Cody and Peter, trickled into the hospital room, peeking around the curtain, anxious to see a child they had months ago decided was their baby too, to love, defend and protect.

I felt like it was a scene from “Parenthood” as we stood in a circle around the bed and it was, but only our own version.  Our own episode. The Byrd family at it’s finest. I was getting my feast. A love feast.  Quite a perfect Thanksgiving Day, my favorite holiday.  I have to smile and say, “Thank you Lord”.  ‘Cause God always did love me best.

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Here’s your song. Enjoy!

My Favorite Word!

I love the word, “blessing.”  It’s my current favorite word and has been for some time now.  I love to think of it and see it in my mind’s eye, and then say it out loud, slowly.  Ble…ssing.  Ble…ssing. I love how it feels in my mouth. It’s pleasant.  It sits on the middle of my tongue and then softly slides up to the back of my teeth, gently forcing its way through my lips and into the space directly in front of my face.  There it curves up into a smile and makes its way throughout the room.  Like a curling tendril of smoke it caresses the faces of those in the room with me.  I watch their faces change, ever so slightly as the “blessing” turns up the corners of their mouths, smoothes away a few worry lines and relaxes a few tight-set jaws.  I hear a faint sigh of contentment escape troubled souls as “blessing” makes room for its self amid the cares of the day.  It doesn’t have to fight for attention.  It is what it is.  It’s spiritual.  It’s ethereal. It is a force of energy, like “good will hunting” for a target, alive with a mission to remind us of who we are, what we are, where we came from and where we’re going.

I’ve always known the word, “blessing.”   It was something we asked at the dinner table.  It was a word that meant we had things money couldn’t buy and things money could buy.  The word “blessing” was a great equalizer.  If you were rich, you were blessed.  If you were poor, you counted your blessings and were rich for having a great number of them. Blessings were like a money currency.  We put them in our banks and built up large accounts. Everyone could be rich!  “Count your many blessings, name them one by one…”

We counted blessings instead of sheep.  Somehow in a sleepy child’s mind, stating your blessings became a prayer of some sort, always followed by a feeling of thankfulness.  You were always thankful for your blessings! How wonderful to fall asleep in a state of thankfulness rather than fear and dread. Counting your blessings like money.  How comforting!

A few summers ago Bill and I were at the kid’s house in Nashville.  It was the Fourth of July and we had cooked out on the grill and prepared a feast.  We had all eaten and were sitting around talking and hadn’t started cleaning yet.  Dirty plates were still on the dining room table and the kitchen was wrecked from all of the cooking.  Trash was overflowing the garbage cans…We were just getting up to clear the table when we heard a knock at the door.  It was their landlord (a word which I don’t care for at all because it makes me feel insecure automatically) Rogan, and a friend of his, Wren.  Rogan lived down the street from the children and had a great relationship with them.  They often helped him entertain at parties and in return he was a friend and very kind to them.  That night it seemed that Rogan was stopping by to check on the new ceiling in the kitchen. It had fallen in during the flood rains that had devastated Nashville a few months before and he had sent workers over to fix it.

I was so embarrassed.  The house was a mess!  When the landlord stops by, you always want to impress him with a clean house.  This was horrible!  What would he think?  The kids weren’t fazed a bit.  To them, he was just Rogan, their friend.  I tried to relax, but had a hard time doing it.   He looked around the kitchen, surveying the work, while I just cringed.  He never said a word about the mess.  We went into the living room and he didn’t leave.  He and Wren sat down and acted like we were the best of friends.  I was so uncomfortable with the messy house that my pride wanted to speak out about it.  I wanted him and his friend to know that the house usually was clean and that if we would have known he was coming to pay us a visit, we would have cleaned up.

At that point, a miracle happened.  Wren looked around and said, “Boy. I bet Thanksgivings at your house must be something else!”  (I supposed she was thinking that a Thanksgiving mess would be even bigger.)  Then Stacey said, “O my God!  Thanksgiving’s crazy at our house.   Everybody’s there and all the girls are in the kitchen cooking while the guys are in the other room watching the parades on TV.  Then right before we eat, we all stand in a circle and hold hands and tell one thing we are thankful for, which by the way, can get kind of mushy.   Then we ask the blessing.” No sooner had Stacey said those words, when Wren exuberantly shouted out, “I LOVE the Blessing.”  All of a sudden, my focus was turned away from the messy dishes on the table and my shame of the landlord catching us in such a state.  The word “Blessing” was released in the room. She said it excitedly as a child speaking the words, “I love Christmas morning,” or finding his long lost stuffed animal…”I love my Teddy Bear.” The word carried power and knocked me off my “I’m normally Miss Perfect” high horse.

The “Blessing” made its way through the room, curling my tight lips into a smile.  I knew exactly what she meant.  I loved the blessing too.  I always had.  We taught our children to love it, to embrace it.  Her speaking about it like that changed the atmosphere in the room, reminding me that the word “blessing “ always brings on the word “thanksgiving.”  All of a sudden, I was thankful for a huge, messy family with plenty of food to eat.  I was thankful that we all understood the importance of recognizing our blessings and thanking God for them.

Later, when I got to North Carolina, I told people about Wren and her love for the “blessing.”   Every time we would get together with friends, we would joke and say, “I lOVE the blessing!”  Then we would commence to say a heartfelt blessing that radiated from our hearts and set the mood for the rest of the meal and evening.  The blessing became alive and real to us.

I LOVE the blessing!  I love to say it, to ask it and to invoke it upon myself and others.  I love it as a noun, a verb and an adjective.  I love how it makes me feel:  how it makes me look outside of myself and remember to be unselfish, humble and grateful. It’s one of the most powerful words in the English language.

Did I tell you that I love Thanksgiving too? Say it with me!  Thanks… Giving.  It’s made from two lovely words that are the result of counting your blessings.  No wonder I love it so!  Wren must love it too.  If you love the blessing, you naturally love Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday, hands down!  It’s the only holiday that you get all the fun of feasting and fellowship that Christmas brings, without having to spend money on buying gifts.  Plus, you get to recount your blessings to others and hear about their blessings.  What could be more fun than that?  Enjoy your Thanksgiving and spread some “Blessing” around.  Then, see how it can affect your world and those around you.  Come on…say it with me slowly…Ble…ssing.  Unleash the power!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Blessings!

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