Thursday, November 28, 2013


Last Saturday I started moving into my new house and tonight I'm sitting in a beautiful cabin in Nemo, South Dakota in the gorgeous Black Hills with my brother, my kids and my best friend and her family.  To say I am thankful is an understatement.

I've been cooking since Tuesday, working on what is my first solo Thanksgiving dinner.  Look hands.  Tuesday I made stuffing and mashed potatoes and yesterday I molested massaged a turkey and a turkey breast and I made an apple pie and then realized I forgot to put in anything to thicken it.  Oops.  This morning I stuffed flour in through the slits and baked it a little more; it was delicious but runny-things could be worse.  

Last Monday I went with Shawna, Erin, Aidan, Grace and Olivia to scatter some of my mom's ashes at Mt. Rushmore.  It was amazing and comical and heart breaking, everything I knew it would be but it was okay because I was with five of the people I love most in this world.
We each had a small container of Cheli's ashes to smuggle inside the national park and we each picked a place and had a private moment to ourselves to say what we wanted to say and scatter them how we wanted to.  Olivia stood facing into the wind in front of a split rail fence.  Let's just say Grandma will be with her for a long time but she isn't alone, yesterday morning I saw Grace carrying a small container of the unwashed ash container; Grandma is with her too. 

The whole thing got Shawna and I to talking about that overwhelming love you feel for your mom when you're a little kid; that desire to launch yourself at your mom and hug her forever.  
I'm lucky, all three of my kids still have it; even the big one.  I didn't know a teenager existed that could like his mom so much, I'm so glad.  And the girls, when they hug me, I just remember how I felt about my mom and I try to take the time to just hug them back and be present.  Even Olivia who is my challenge child...when she is upset, even with me, she cannot be comforted by anyone but her mom.  I love that they need me, I need them too. 

I've been waiting over two years to do this; this trip has been cancelled again and again.  My hands shook as I poured my mom's ashes out of the urn into the six little containers in the back seat of a Cadillac.  Cheli would have totally have appreciated the Cadillac scenario; they have amazing suspension.  
It wasn't the first time I'd had my mom's ashes on my hands (you can read about the first time here). It was the first time however, I was handling her ashes and knowingly committing a crime, a crime that I insisted my kids participate in. And, I know, I write about my mom here a lot. The thing is; she is everywhere for me.  In some ways, it is easier to figure out my feelings for her with her gone.  And, yes, I know how that sounds.  I'd also joyfully trade all the knowledge and insight I've gained about our relationship since she died for one solid minute of face to face time with her.  
I am terrified that my girls won't remember her; Aidan and I spend a lot of time trying to keep her memory alive and vibrant for them. 

We each did our own thing; I sent my mom over a fence under George Washington's nose with a silent conversation (something that never would have happened were she alive) and some tears.  My kids and Erin picked their own spots and haven't shared much
about their experiences.  Shawna was the only one who used her hands, she said dumping seemed rude and she feels she has become closer to my mom than she ever intended.  My mom loved Shawna, I remember when it used to bug the crap out of me how much she loved her; I was certain it was way more than she loved me.  I was 15, I was an idiot.  What I know now is that she loved Shawna because of how tightly I held to her and how much I loved her.  She loved her because she loved me and Shawna was willing to have it, I usually threw it back in her face.  Shawna was to my mom what Nate is to me, her bonus child and you can never mother too many people.  My mom thought Shawna was the best thing that ever happened to me and even I wouldn't argue her that. 

Our Mt. Rushmore adventure ended in comedy as most things in my family do; my mom would have loved every second of it.  I wanted to take a picture of all six of us so I tried to climb over a split rail fence into a forbidden area to frame a photo and start the timer and take our picture.  I made it half way over the fence, one leg on either side and I twisted my ankle on a piece of granite...yes, I know, it's a granite mountain.  I fell down on the forbidden side of the fence in complete slow motion...ask anyone who was there.  I could feel the ridiculous slow motion faces I was making.  I could see both Shawna's and Erin's faces clearly, it was fantastic....I crumpled to the ground in grand theatric style.  By the time I landed ,which I'm pretty sure took 15 minutes, I was laughing so hard I couldn't stand up or I would wet my pants.  So I layed on the ground under the fence laughing so hard I couldn't breathe and the five people I love so much laughed at with me.  
Shawna was kind enough to capture it on film

Until my mom died Thanksgiving was my very favorite holiday, it was always filled with laughter and Hagan food drama; I truly dread it now.  Until she was gone it was the only holiday that made us feel like a big family, now it just makes Erin and I feel like orphans and that has been hard.  My husband's family always includes both of us, but it's not the same and sometimes being around someone else's entire family makes you feel more alone.  This year it's a little better, and being out of town is a welcome distraction, there are lots of kids and everyone is having a ball.  Erin is here and he is the only person left who remembers all of the same traditions and memories that I do, I couldn't do Thanksgiving without him.  Tomorrow he turns 40 and, as ever, I am incredibly grateful that he is my brother and my friend.  I remember my mom saying to me on my 40th birthday, "You can't imagine how strange it is to have a 40 year old child."  And I want so badly for her to be able to say that to Erin over his cake.  Tomorrow we will go out for dinner with Shawna and Chad and gamble in Deadwood, I hope I can distract him, birthdays without your mom are hard.  

This year I am incredibly grateful for my chosen family, I have had friends help me in ways that I can't even explain in words- and that is saying something.  Friends have moved me, they've kept and loved and entertained my kids, they've cooked.  They've gifted my children life-sized tiger stuffed animals.  They've held me up...even one I didn't get to meet in person until this very week.  They've kept my chickens and my dogs, they've given me and my kids a place to stay while all of our house drama was going on.  I am incredibly thankful.  I am grateful to my mom who taught me how to be a good friend; it pays off in my life over and over again.  So while I am missing her today a little more than usual, I am so thankful for so much of what she taught me, for the traditions she left in my care.  If you are my friend and I haven't told you lately how much I love you....I love you.  And I am incredibly thankful to have you.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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