Thanksgiving 1994 was the first Thanksgiving we celebrated in our home in the Phoenix desert. We had moved there the previous spring relocating from Minneapolis and leaving behind all of our family in the Midwest. My youngest had just turned 3 that August '94 and he loved trucks. I can still recite from memory his favorite truck book "How Many Trucks Could a Tow Truck Tow if a Tow Truck Could Tow Trucks".
My parents and a beloved aunt came to spend that first Thanksgiving in the desert with us. We planned a splendid 10 days. They drove up to the Grand Canyon and Sedona; we took them to our favorite ice cream place (about the first business establishment one must search out upon a new home, right!); they spent time watching our kids play through the day and sitting outside in short sleeves even though it was November while we had long talks. And, we shopped! Yes, Mom and Aunt Lorraine loved to shop - and my daughters really got their first taste of "shopping with Grandma" that year.
Since Christmas was coming and we were not going to be back to MN for Christmas that year, my mother/aunt decided that they would do as much of their Christmas shopping for my family as they could while in Phoenix so they wouldn't have to spend any money on shipping and handling. So bags and bags came home and were squirreled away into my closet. I offered to wrap them later but they would have none of that - their name must be handwritten by them on each gift. My mother/aunt spent an afternoon in my bedroom happily wrapping while my father and I watched the kids antic through their normal day.
All too soon it was time for my parents/aunt to board a plane back to MN. Despite always knowing that this move was for the good of our family unit, I was always homesick in the desert but never as much as when I would have to say good-bye. The house seemed empty without these beloved 3.
And, then about the next day, every time I would open my closet door, the wrapping paper would rustle enough to set off the very noisy red fire truck which was carefully wrapped and on the top shelf of my closet.
Flashing Lights "(Siren sound!) Engine 36 Rolling! (Siren sound!)" Flashing Lights
This phenomenon continued after it was unwrapped on Christmas morning. If the cat got too close or if there was lightening from a storm as well as when Josh played with the truck, "Engine 36 Rolling!" would come blaring on - scaring the cat, annoying his sisters, and sometimes awakening us from a sound sleep. It became a family joke.
Over time, as Josh's interest in trucks waned, the batteries had worn out and were never replaced. But the red fire truck was not donated to Goodwill even during another move cross-country. It was lovingly packed right along with all our other belongings. If Joshua doesn't take the red fire truck with him when he does finally move out then it will have a home with us. And, even if my children continue to embrace Waldorf ways and prefer wooden/natural over plastic for their own children, when their children come to Grandma's house the big, noisy, plastic red fire truck will be among those toys they can choose to play with complete with new batteries.
Flashing Lights "(Siren sound)! Engine 36 Rolling! (Siren sound)!" Flashing Lights
You see that memorable Thanksgiving was the last and only time that both my mother and aunt were ever in our Phoenix home. Five years later on Thanksgiving my beloved aunt lay dying of ovarian cancer at home in MN. Seven months later, my mother succumbed to the same illness. My father made it to our Phoenix home one more time and lived two and half years beyond my mother's death. But just before Thanksgiving 2002, he died of a massive heart attack, 8 short years after that first memorable desert Thanksgiving.
They never understood or supported our attachment parenting ways. They never understood our attraction to Waldorf Education and indeed thought we were crazy to send our children to such an alternative "weird", expensive private school especially for preschool/early grades. They never understood or always honored my desire for wooden, natural especially when the plastic was often less expensive and lasted longer. They never understood our decision to homeschool. They never understood why we didn't force our children to learn to read at 5 and allowed them to play all day even into their pre-adolescent years.
But they loved us and our children and I miss them terribly every day.
There are no more exciting, sometimes "forbidden" packages or Halloween cards with a couple of dollar bills tucked carefully inside coming to our house from Kellogg Square, St. Paul, MN. That big, bright, noisy, plastic red fire truck symbolizes much more for me then mere words can articulate. I am forever grateful it blared its way into our lives and hearts.
(Originally posted to WE_HS December 2004)