While peeling potatoes for Thanksgiving this year, my mind wandered, aimlessly unsealing memory pockets. This sorting process usually occurs at night, triggering insomnia. To clear my head, I jotted bits and pieces down.
ThisThanksgiving, there were many things to be grateful for, especially having all the “kids” over for dinner. We don’t take their presence at our table for granted. They’re all active, childless, busy adults. Their interests are varied, and their perspectives different from ours on how best to spend a holiday weekend. Both my husband and I are mired in the traditions we grew up with.
Thanksgiving in my parents’ home set the bar high for holiday expectations later in life. From the ceremonial uncorking of the wine to including friends who might have otherwise spent the day alone, my parents demonstrated an exemplary generosity of spirit. There was always room for one more at their table. As my mother used to say, “There but for the grace of God goes you.”
At nineteen, I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner for five. I was young and broke but optimistic. I was appropriately thankful, but I think there was much I took for granted. Feeling genuinely thankful doesn’t always happen naturally. It is a learned mindset. Learning is not always an easy or pleasant process.
Fast forward about fourteen years. I was newly divorced, with a son just under three-years old. My ex-in-laws wanted him for Thanksgiving, so I decided to make the best of it and go to a holiday buffet with a friend. As I stood on the doorstep of my in-laws’ house handing over my son, the scent of Thanksgiving permeated every cell of my being.
The fragrance of roasting turkey encircled me in a tight cocoon of loss. The fanciest restaurant buffet couldn’t begin to compensate for the lack of family on the very holiday that celebrates family and sharing. My life plan never included being divorced with a small child. I felt cheated of my long-held belief in traditional family values. I never felt less thankful.
I learned a lot on that unthankful Thanksgiving. My idea of what defined family shifted forever, and broadened. Close friends, blended family, extended family--those who accept you with unconditional love, those who can be trusted to stick to their word, they are your true family. I learned that what people preach means nothing compared to what they do. I also learned that there are no guarantees in life. You roll the dice and take your chances, and then you roll up your sleeves and create the life you want.
Yes, I amped up my ability to be deeply thankful for the people in my life and hold them close. And I also learned that celebrating holidays in a somewhat old-fashioned way is coded into my DNA, whether that means serving food at a charity dinner or creating a feast for fourteen at home. Over the years I’ve done both and everything in between.
Whatever did or didn’t happen between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans long ago is a moot point. We’ve dubbed the third Thursday in November Thanksgiving, and there’s not one of us who can’t benefit from observing the holiday tradition of giving thanks for life’s blessings.
So I extend a belated Thanksgiving thank you to all of you who are in my life: those I spend time with face-to-face, all you wonderful people who hang in there with me and accept my quirks, and those who have become part of my cyber-space life. I truly appreciate each and every one of you.
photos - my soon-to-be father-in-law, Thanksgiving 1998. He disliked turkey but loved pork chops, so I made him a huge pork chop, stuck with turkey feathers. The other is 1985, my son evidently not done with the Thanksgiving turkey.
11/25/2018 02:43:32 pm
Love this post
11/25/2018 03:28:13 pm
THANK YOU. Agonized over this one. Thought it might be (1) too long and (2) too much information :) You, my dear, are my family.
11/26/2018 07:40:58 am
11/26/2018 08:57:08 am
Thank you. Thought of you and the joy of your holiday with your daughter's family so close by! :)
11/25/2018 06:41:38 pm
A very relaxing read.
11/26/2018 04:43:51 am
So well said, Lynn. May I share this with my own circle of friends-who-are-family?
11/26/2018 08:55:59 am
I would absolutely love for you to share this post and any of my blog posts you think might strike a chord with someone.
11/27/2018 01:12:56 am
Making fake turkey legs in my dads pork chop was hilarious. My dad never liked fowl or fish so we would have chicken or fish on Tuesday night when he went to Lions Club.
11/27/2018 10:41:59 am
I wish I'd had more time with him, but at least we made the most of the time we did have with him together.
11/27/2018 04:03:18 pm
What a great post. Clear and and emotional memories like these fuel your fiction writing. Not a bad thing!
12/9/2018 03:13:19 pm
I am so bad, Paula, that when I was a vegetarian I made a vegetarian entree, but still roasted a turkey. And, I am embarrassed to admit, I'd sneak in a pepperoni pizza once a while. Yup... pretty awful, I know.
11/27/2018 11:49:46 pm
One of the best Why-I'm-Thankful-on-Thanksgiving Day posts I've read in a very long time. You had me thinking back to family and friends Thanksgiving dinners both growing up and as an adult. As the years race by, good memories are our most valuable treasures. Thank you for sharing.
12/9/2018 03:13:59 pm
Thank you for reading :)
12/7/2018 12:27:45 pm
VERY nice flow & cadence Lynn. Not too long at all. I like the conversational tone you use which is more like the "new journalism" school of writing (there's a book called The New Journalists you might be interested about how the style of Hemingway/Capote/etc. changed writing forever).
12/9/2018 03:15:26 pm
Thanks for the insightful comments. II heard about the Erma Bombeck play but haven't seen it. I remember her columns. Loved them. Thank you so very much for the kind comparison.
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