I love November. I’m sure it’s because it’s my birthday month and also my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. I’m a turkey baby, though turkey is not my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. I prefer the turkey leg as I’m partial to the dark meat. Everyone told me I was a weird kid for that, as the popular choice is the dry, nasty white meat. I love the homemade cranberry sauce. I love mashed potatoes, with lots of cream, butter and salt whipped in. In my opinion, they should be so delicious alone that you can eat them with a spoon, without any butter or salt because it’s already in the potatoes. And the pies. You can’t forget the pies. I love them all, but lean toward pecan, lemon chess, and apple (all from scratch—-no canned fillings here). For my birthday, I always asked for pie—never, ever cake. I would often order apple pie, but one year asked for homemade creme puffs and another year, Apple Chop Suey, a family traditional favorite for the holidays. I usually asked for Russian Perisky for my birthday dinner, another family recipe. Even now, my mouth waters at the thought of that dish. In recent years, I have made it myself, in honor of my childhood self.
In thinking of Thanksgiving this week and my birthday this month, I want to combine my thoughts and share some of the things I’m most grateful for, particularly in how they relate to my own life because when I was smalll, I never could see myself as an adult, let alone a 50-something-year-old wife and mother. Similarly, it’s hard for me now to picture myself as a child or even a teenager. I have different perspective now and often wish I could talk to those former versions of me, to offer encouragement, advice, love and perspective.
To my little-girl self I would say: There is no need to worry about the boogeyman, spiders in the basement bedroom, dead people, white dogs, or Paulina, the mean bully at school. First of all, these things will make for some of the best stories you can tell your own children, young women at church, and sunday school teenagers. Secondly, these are really small concerns compared to the other things you will face in your life, so chill out. Ms. N. that checks your milk carton in the lunch room? She has to check it; it’s her job and she checks all the milk cartons. True. Warm milk is wretched, but compared to other things you’ll face, it’s cake.
To my junior-high self: This phase is temporary. You won’t aways be the tallest girl and someday your mom will realize you will wear makeup and there is nothing she can do about it. That’s what school bathrooms are for, right? The creepy boys that make fun of your full lips now will wish they hadn’t later. Right now they’re not “in style,” but believe it or not, one day women will PAY to make their lips like yours, and they still won’t be able to. Jeans are not evil, no matter what your mom says; they are the best piece of clothing ever invented and the more soft, faded, and flared—the better. Just wait. One day you’ll be able to have as many as you like. You don’t need a perm. You don’t know it now, but you actually have naturally curly hair. You’ll be perplexed one day when you decide to grow out your perm only to find that you never needed one! You are smart and you can do and be anything you want. Don’t let Mr. A. in 7th grade math dash your dreams. He is only a grown-up bully.
To my high-school self: As hard as it is to grasp, these three years will never happen again. Hallelujiah! It seems like an eternity in hell right now, but it will end. I promise. Going to prom is overrated. Yes, it would’ve been nice, but maybe you would have married that guy and your whole life would have turned out wrong, so it’s a blessing. Theater is not for you. You won’t do that ever again after school is over, so stop wasting so much energy on it now, and all the “drama” those people in theater carry around with them every day. You’ve got more important things to do. You don’t realize it now, but your seminary teacher, Brother B., saved your life, and you will thank him for the rest of it; he is a saint. The friends you think are your friends, are not. Look out for what you can learn, because you will see patterns later on for what to look for in true versus false friends.
To my college self: Sadly, this time goes quickly in your life, so relish it all. It’s a good chapter. Remember to be happy. Never forget what it feels like to be freed from high school and small town thinking. Think often about the friends you make and the lessons you learn about yourself. You meet your most important friend here, who will stand by you for the rest of your life, and together you will start your own family. What a glorious feeling it is to come out and shine. Don’t quit art school! Please don’t let the cruel words of your mom resonate with you. You are an artist. You can do it. You will make beautiful things and people will appreciate your talent. Don’t take it personally when your parents get divorced. It’s only the beginning to a long road of heartache with your extended family, but you’re strong and God needs you to change the traditions of your own family and bring your own children up differently. Pay attention.
To my young married self: I don’t need to tell you this because this is one of your favorite times of your life. What a glorious time to be alive. Supporting your husband in law school, eating frozen burritos to be able to afford your first house, and making artwork to sell for extra cash with your husband will be memories you cherish for a lifetime. You won’t ever get the house in Federal Heights though, and that will be a blessing. Love this time and hope it doesn’t go too quickly.
To my young-mother self: It’s tough not having any help when your babies are born, but that just makes you an even more tender and devoted mommy. Besides, you’re smart and you can figure it out. The kids will stop having ear infections and drawing on the walls. You will strengthen your faith in God as you go through scary things like accidents and illness. You wish for many children, but God will give you two, and that’s a beautiful thing. Someday you will know why. They will survive scout camp and mean girls at school. Your children will make you proud and humbled to be their mom.
To my older-mother self: It happened. The kids did actually learn to drive and they can do things by themselves and it’s a good thing. They have good heads on their shoulders and you can be happy and at peace with whom they’ve become. They know how to work and have achieved more in their young lives than you have, relatively speaking. They’re pursuing further dreams and aspirations and they are grateful. You’re lucky and very blessed. They will continue doing good in the world around them. They will call and text you. Everything will be alright. You can afford the plane fare to visit them when they move away. They are worthy and good and obedient. You’ve given it everything and it is paying off.
To my bishop’s wife self: This too shall pass. It’s an honor and privilege to serve. Your husband is a worthy and valiant man who humbly wants to help people, in the Lord’s way. When he’s away from home, he wishes to be with you, but other people need him sometimes. A lot. It’s okay. It’s another way for you to show Jesus how much you love Him. The people that say hurtful things to you are hurting inside. You don’t need to know why. Many in the ward are praying for your husband and family. God is blessing you in ways you can’t even see. This work is important. Don’t give up. You’ve been married 30 years and your marriage and family are eternal. Everything is worth that. You hit the jackpot with your marriage. You married your best friend and he loves you.
I am truly grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned in my life, and even for the pains and sorrows, because they have made it possible for me to know how much better it is to feel happy and peaceful. God knows everything and for some wise and glorious purpose He has a plan for me, my husband, and my children. I trust Him. Even if things turn out differently than I imagine, God’s plan for me and my family will always be better and more glorious than our plans. He loves us that much. So, Happy Birthday to me and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. What a wonderful time to be alive, when the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and we have living prophets and apostles to lead and teach us. Everything is good!
Here is my favorite Primary song of all time; the one where, on the day we learned it, I knew without a doubt that Heavenly Father really did love me and I still know it today.
“My Heavenly Father Loves Me”
sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir