I wasn't going to do a blog about Thanksgiving. I've had mixed emotions about this holiday for a really long time and I wasn't sure I had anything to write.
As a kid, I loved Thanksgiving. We would drive to my Grandmother's house and, during the drive, we would all sing "Over the River and Through the Woods..." How Norman Rockwell is that?! Gram's home would be full and warm and bustling. Everyone I had ever known as family was alive then - not just alive, but lively. Funny and noisy. And there were enough people that I was relegated to the kid's table for a really long time but it was OK because the sister and cousin I admired - who were 7 and 8 years older and, in my book, really cool - were relegated there as well. And I made myself an Indian vest (at the time, there was considerably less worry about calling it that) out of a paper grocery bag. For years. Probably more years than I should have wanted to do that...
As time went on, people began to leave and no one new was added. My grandfather died, my uncle, my other uncle, then my aunt moved away, my cousin moved away...we all moved away. And, though I was from a family that believed firmly in tradition, I have remained more or less traditionless for that holiday. Occasionally I went home but often I didn't. And when I did, it wasn't the same. It simply served as a reminder that what we once had was gone. And then, one year, I was fired the night before Thanksgiving. And my parents passed away and there was no longer a home to go to. And another time, my son was in the hospital during Thanksgiving. And now I am at the end of a divorce for Thanksgiving. And I wasn't feelin' it. Again this year - as I have for the past decade of Thanksgivings - I faced the holiday with more dread than gratitude.
It isn't that I don't ever feel grateful. I do. I have a child who almost died but was saved by some really miraculous doctors and I do remember to be grateful more often than I did. I still get mired down in all the day-to-day crap sometimes - everybody does - but I do, eventually, remember how very lucky I am. It's just that I have never been able to achieve the gratitude-on-cue that this holiday requires.
I needed to find some new traditions. My kids deserve that kind of holiday - the kind that I had. Some friends were collecting food for goodie-bags for the homeless/hungry people who would be attending a Thanksgiving feast nearby. Bunny and I baked banana bread and the kids insisted on including some individualized chip bags (cause nothing says "We care" like a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetoes.) So we got those and dropped it all off and felt really good. Then we went and got sandwiches and Pip drove me bonkers and I got grumpy.
On the way home, I said "I have Arthur Christmas at home. Wanna have a family movie night?"
And Bunny said this:
"OK. But, listen. You always say that we should do a family movie night and it'll be all fun and stuff but then Jack keeps leaving to get a drink or some food and I keep leaving to gather stuffed animals and by the time we're back, you've gotten on your computer and it's about an hour later and then you tell us to start the movie and you'll be in in a minute but then you don't come in for a lot longer than that and by the time you come in, we fall asleep cause we started the movie so late. So, since this is the night before Thanksgiving, when we are most thankful for our family, could we all please just be in the same room and have a REAL family movie night? Together?"
And all of a sudden I felt tons of gratitude. I felt grateful for the two amazing children in the backseat who were ooohing and ahhhing over the Christmas lights that have already been put up along the way home. I felt grateful that the most important thing to my daughter is not the movie title but whether or not I'll be next to her when we watch it. I felt grateful that I get to take them to a Thanksgiving feast at a friend's house that will be warm and full and busy with funny, lively people who are, as sure as if we'd been born into the same lineage, family. Absolutely family. I felt the gratitude I am supposed to feel - even though it had to be prompted by my 7-year-old who is, clearly, WAY smarter than I am (though I'm not sure if I should be grateful for that or just really worried about her teenage years.)
Thanksgiving is just one day a year and a lot of times it comes with traffic jams and airports and stress and worry. So what I wish for you is a whole year of happy, warm, laughter-filled meals with the people you call family - whether you're related or not. I wish you a year of sudden, unexpected moments of clarity. And I wish you the wherewithal to get off the computer and crawl under a blanket and have a REAL family movie night like we just did. Together.
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