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Head's Corner, November 27
I certainly hope that your Thanksgiving break was spent with loved ones, rekindling old sparks, mending relationships, sharing fond and not so fond memories, or simply giving yourself an excuse to temporarily diverge from that diet you intended to go on weeks prior, in anticipation of gaining the holiday bulge. I did a little of all of the above but certainly not without the holiday drama. What is a day in the life of the Tuckers with no drama? Ah, non-existent. R&B singer Mary J. Blige even wrote an album with us in mind—“No More Drama.”
I was excited about spending Thanksgiving with friends and family in Cleveland. For once, the only thing I was responsible for was cooking the turkey. I have average culinary skills but I can make a mean turkey. During the ten-hour road trip, I planned my arrival and itinerary with razor-sharp precision. Upon my arrival, I intended to go to bed immediately so that I could catch up on some much needed rest, cook a mouth-watering turkey and go for a peaceful walk with my BFF, my husband Phillip. Lord knows, we could benefit from some time alone.
When we arrived, I was so excited to see my three-year old niece Mia and my 6- month-old nephew Tucker that I immediately abandoned my fantasy of letting my head hit the pillow hard and falling into a deep slumber. I followed Mia with Tucker in tow to their “play space”. I told my sister-in-law that I thought they needed a Pink Tower and 100 Chain and some more Practical Life materials. I secretly thought that, although my niece is brilliant, she was at a disadvantage attending a preschool that was not committed to following the child. I broke my sister-in-law’s rigid rules about learning and playing. I told Mia that she didn’t have to recite the alphabet or speak Spanish on demand. I told her that she was the teacher and both Tucker and I could learn a lot from her. Soon, I had “prepared the environment” as best as I could and both she and her baby brother were so stimulated that everyone thought I slipped them a taste of my potent and very effective energy drink. I played with them until it was time to prepare the turkey for the 20-plus guests that would arrive in less than six hours. My adrenaline was pumping and I was convinced that this would be one of the best turkeys I have ever cooked! Once I placed the turkey in the oven, Phil and I rushed out of the door for a walk.
The weather was gorgeous, balmy and peaceful. One hour into the walk, I called my sister-in-law, who is a co-anchor at a television station in Cleveland. I wanted her to baste the turkey. She responded as if she were on the air: "fire in the oven, fire in the oven, turkey burning!" The only thing that she didn't say was "This is Tiffani Tucker, reporting live from my own house!” Under normal circumstances, I would have had a tizzy and reverted back to my track days, sprinting as fast as I could back to the house. Instead, I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and smiled at my husband--who, thankfully, balances my frenetic energy. Besides, running is not option these days. "Is everything ok honey?" he asked. I remembered that, no matter what, I was going to be thankful for all of the things that we take for granted. I responded calmly. “Yeah, Boo (classic nickname for honey in my culture), it's all good!” Meanwhile, I was having a fire within--and kept hearing Adele sing “Set Fire to the Rain.” Don’t ask me why.
When we finally got back from our walk, the whole house was smoky, and the loving acts of kindness toward one another were quickly dissipating. It seemed everyone was upset that the turkey caught on fire and, somehow, it was my fault. I had the turkey on a timer and it was cooking slowly. WTF- I thought. No, not that. What? Turkey? Fire? How could that happen with six adults in the house? Amused by the scene, I joked that we could have blackened turkey just in time for Black Friday. It is a family tradition to hit the stores the day after Thanksgiving for the unbelievable sales. Besides, I love the term because it is one of the very few descriptions where "black" is positive--just saying. Considering the scorched turkey and the fact that my sister-in-law is black and my brother-in-law is white, no one was in the mood for black jokes. I was the only one laughing. Our multicultural family looked at me as if I had escaped from the insane asylum. They are used to a different me. Intense not relaxed. Suddenly I felt like I was playing a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Color Purple. In the scene, the character Sophia, played by Oprah Winfrey, had been internally and institutionally oppressed for years. While visiting her loving but quirky (some would say dysfunctional) family during the holidays, Oprah’s character Sophia finally comes to life by breaking her emotional and physical silence at the dinner table, offering a dose of truth serum and food for thought to everyone within earshot. They were shocked by her actions but her words were so powerful that everyone joined in with laughter. My script in Cleveland wasn’t as well received. However, in spite of their misinterpretation of my thankful and relaxed state of mind, somehow I managed to convince my type-A sister-in-law and perfectionist mother-in-law (both of whom I love dearly) that we had an amazing meal already cooked and that we had so many reasons to give thanks.
When we gathered around the table to share our expressions of gratitude, we were all reminded that in the past year, my sister-in-law and brother-in law welcomed a new healthy baby boy shortly after the tragic loss of their infant daughter from a genetic disorder. A family member who was battling cancer felt well enough to join us for the festivities. Bickering siblings chose to gather for a happy occasion rather than wait for a sad one. Although not perfect, we had a feast that tasted better than any other previous Thanksgiving dinners, including the blackened turkey. We exchanged stories, reflected on the past, treasured the moment and looked forward to the future. I shared funny and amazing stories about your children and CMS. For once, I wasn't thinking about the superficial things that take away the real meaning of Thanksgiving. How good was my turkey? How perfect are our children (umm...not)? How much my uncle embellishes about everything and that I wish his nose would grow every time he opens his mouth. I know that is so catty. Instead, I listened intently to the reasons everyone gave thanks, and that was the focus the entire weekend. We didn't even bother going shopping on Black Friday. I heard that retailers were "thankful" for all of the consumerism exercised on that one day.
I was thankful that my family was focused on giving thanks. We spent the weekend talking, laughing, crying and relishing each other’s company. There are so many people who are less fortunate, less educated, having fewer resources and opportunities. There are victims of catastrophic events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Many have lost jobs and job and others have suffered the loss of a loved one. Today one of my best friends will bury her mother who passed away right before Thanksgiving. I am encouraged by her strength as she gives thanks for having such a beautiful mom with whom she was extremely close. She’s thankful for the time she had with her mom. Ever since I joined CMS, the attitude of gratitude is the eternal flame that burns inside each and every one of us, making this the place where I belong. I am thankful for all of you. Have a phenomenal week!