As a kid, sure, Thanksgiving made sense. We hadn’t yet reached the point in our collective culture when we would tell the larger story of what happened between European refugees and the people indigenous to this land. Pilgrims and Indians being friends sounded nice. There was a lot of food.
As an adult, man, Thanksgiving is so weird. We have to ignore the whole genocide theme, which means ignoring the origin story as well, and how do you justify celebrating a day in which you don’t support? Food, family and friendship is the answer typically given – people love a good reason to gather, eat and, on this day, give thanks. And I endorse all those things! I think we should practice them all the time.
In fact, I’m often bugging people to get lunch, come over for dinner, do brunch. My friends probably get tired of hearing how much they mean to me. I strive to appreciate all the goodness in my life – granted, in part because I know that people who take note of their happy fortune tend to be happier people, but also because to not acknowledge life’s gifts seems like the characteristic of a real jerk and I am not, I hope, a real jerk.
Self-indulgent, maybe, as this post is quickly confirming. Ahem.
So Thanksgiving tends to throw me off a bit because I am never sure how to make it different than any other particularly nice day and it’s supposed to be a holiday so… Also I quit eating turkey 24 years ago. But my children – and many of my friends – love it. Apparently it feels festive to them. Which suggests I’ve underestimated the value of the day.
I thought about this when my two kids who are away going to college both said they couldn’t make it home. Work, school, lack of rides. This had never happened before – the news landed with a blow. But they started talking about at least getting my son to my daughter’s for the occasion, and that alleviated some of the sadness I felt about everyone being so far flung.
And then I came up with a plan decidedly not in line with what a usual Thanksgiving celebration looks like, but one that would appeal to my people – “my people” in this case being husband and older daughter (and her two dogs). Great. I shall succeed as a mother and American.
Then around 11 p.m. last night, my son called to tell me he found a ride on Craigslist and will be here after all. A succession of thoughts stampeded through my head: Hooray! Wait. What about his sister? Oh my god, he’s going to be in a car with some stranger on the most-traveled day of the year and what if the person is sketch or a bad driver or both and my children dying in car wrecks is my biggest fear and now I can’t sleep and also will be a mess all day till he arrives safely but have to pretend I’m cool and work and oh my god. Also, this means a shift in the plans we’ve made. How will this all work? He’ll be so happy to be home. But, oh, the lack of the other daughter will cut more deeply now. Will she have roommates to celebrate with? Etc., etc.
Here I am this morning, on little sleep, dizzied. Through the window, the sunrise paints the beach pines orange. Drops hang off needles. I can see the trailhead that leads to the beach. I could walk out of my house right now and be at the ocean in 10 minutes with nothing in between but nature. The fire my husband built kept the house warm all night. The soup I made from our farm share veggies is so good that I reheated it and called it breakfast. We were invited to share Thanksgiving with friends, a lovely gesture. I think we’ll still be able to pull off our plan to surf and hike in one of the world’s best places. My son shall arrive safely – I will tell myself that all day – and my younger daughter has never lacked for friends. All will be well.
And so once again, I find myself giving thanks.