But one of the adult children came over to do laundry, and play with the new kitten (who was actually her kitten, but was splendidly needy so she gave him to Squish as an early Christmas present) and I had a houseful of people.
I pulled out some whomp-biscuit croissants and some marzipan (left over from Thanksgiving because who has this shit around in general, right?) and made almond croissants and yay! I'm a hero! And dinner, of course, is staples.
In this case, pizza-dillas-- cheese quesadillas with a little bit of spaghetti sauce added--and I'm always surprised how excited they get about this. It's not really a "gather around the table" dish. For one thing, the table is now dedicated to ZoomBoy's homework, and he's got an assignment this weekend, but for another, they're really a one-at-a-time deal.
Make one, cut it up, split it between two, do the next. Everybody's patient and grateful, and if one person hasn't gotten theirs, someone else will give them a quarter, until eventually everyone has eaten.
When it's my turn, I sit down and eat my share and someone comes to get my plate so I can stay seated for a little while--which is kind.
There is no, "Hey, why didn't I get any this time?" or "Hey--why did she get more than me?" There's no, "Why didn't we get a Christmas tree again?" Everyone knows money is tight. Everyone knows I'm doing my best. And my children are not really kids anymore. They understand the nature of waiting your turn, and the nature of paychecks and of things beyond our control.
When there's more money, I'll make spaghetti with meat sauce, or chicken and veggies, or we'll even do takeout, and everybody will eat at the same time--but they know this is not that night. Their willingness to pitch in makes it a good night. That and the fact that when we had money, I bought ice cream, and dessert is always a plus.
We have lived through thin times before. When I was pulled from the high school and the writing hadn't yet caught on, I would get home from dropping kids off to school and be in tears from nothing but worry.
My husband would hold my hand and tell me it was okay. We probably wouldn't lose the house. My publisher held my hand and told me it was okay--I wasn't a one trick pony-- there was more to me than teaching.
I learned to have faith.
I've needed faith in the last few months--and it's never easy, especially during the thin times, to believe more is coming. Just like the kids who trust I'm doing my best, I've learned trust too.
Being a grownup means sharing in adversity as well as plenty. It means not making things harder on people who are doing their best. It means waiting your turn when the plenty comes around, because there's not always enough of the good stuff--but if everyone pulls together, there will be.
And it means accepting there are always other decisions you could have made, and hoping doing things with a clear conscience and a good heart gets you as far as you've always believed.
If we lose the house this time, we have Mate's mother's house to move into. We would rather have Mate's mother around and move into an apartment because we've learned what's important. It's part of that grownup thing.
Patience, faith, recognizing that everyone has limits and respecting them. Helping when you can, even if it's a small act of kindness. Not making matters worse by being obnoxious or intrusive or whining. My kids are amazing at it. I am proud of them every day.
They'll never know what a rare and awesome gift it is, to make the thin times feel like plenty, just by giving joy.