Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

     I looked at my calendar yesterday and realized that Thanksgiving is next week.  I nearly choked and determined two things: One, I really need to put away the Capri pants and accept that summer has forsaken me; and two, I have some menu planning to do.  Mom, my brothers’ wives Red and Midge, and myself split the cooking duties for each holiday so one woman is never solely responsible for an entire feast.  I made a mental note to contact them in a mass e-mail and went back to the task of feeding Buttercup and The Yankee.  As we sat down to our supper, I casually mentioned to The Yankee that the Thanksgiving holiday was approaching rapidly.  He gasped, shook his head, and informed me that I must be mistaken.

     One wall calendar plopped in his lap was all it took. 

     As we talked about the fact that, once again, I was right, our conversation drifted to our traditions.  “Are we having turkey this year?” he asked with a worried look in his eye.  (One Thanksgiving chicken dinner and he’s scarred for life.)  “Because it’s just not Thanksgiving without turkey.”  That one phrase stuck in my mind all night.  “It’s just not Thanksgiving …” And (big surprise here), I started thinking: what exactly makes Thanksgiving?  I suppose the Pilgrims would have said it was a joyous celebration for those who survived unthinkable conditions and the frigid temperatures of a hostile winter.  For Europeans, I suppose it would seem a strange American ritual to eat a huge meal surrounded by people we ordinarily wouldn’t want to share an elevator with.  For The Yankee, I suppose it’s a turkey. 

     Everyone has a different view on what “makes” Thanksgiving, but it all seems to come down to rituals and traditions.  For my best friend, Pocahontas, it’s a trip to her husband’s home town of “Y’all Come” and being welcomed by a deep-fried turkey and a giant, military-sized pan of her mother-in-law’s sage and sausage dressing.  For my crazy Aunt Gladiola who moved to the desert to live in an RV park, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with her fellow RV enthusiasts for communal fish tacos and karaoke.  For The Yankee, it’s a turkey. 

     The running theme always seems to center around the food.  Turkey or no turkey.  Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.  Pumpkin pie or pecan pie.  Dressing or stuffing.  I know I should care about this, but truth be told, the menu makes no difference to me.  Thanksgiving is not the food, or the company, or the free day off from work.  To me, Thanksgiving is an attitude.  A moment in time.  A day set aside to pause, reflect, and realize how spoiled rotten we are compared to those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving so long ago.  Those Pilgrims had nothing but their faith and each other and maybe something wild they shot and ate.  We pitch a fit if we got the white meat instead of the dark or the dark meat instead of the white.  Pilgrims and their neighbors of a completely different culture and language put aside their differences to celebrate another year of life.  We complain if we have to sit next to Uncle Hegbert and endure his annoying habit of dousing everything in mayonnaise.  Our forefathers and mothers warmed their tiny little homes with a wood fire, pooped in an outhouse, and ate what they killed or grew.  We throw a screaming temper tantrum if the power goes out or the game on TV is interrupted or the traffic on the highway is too congested. 

     We’re brats. 

     This year, I don’t care what we eat.  I don’t care if it’s turkey or chicken or pork chops or popcorn.  If I have to sit next to the most annoying relative in the entire family tree or if I hold the hand of a complete stranger while we say a prayer of thankfulness for the year behind us, the day around us, and the time to come.  Whatever happens, I fully intend to make Thanksgiving a personal event.  Whatever happens, I’m going to be thankful for it.  For me, Thanksgiving is about bringing the compass of my life back to where it belongs. 

     For The Yankee, it’s a turkey.

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

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