I have never been particularly fond of Thanksgiving. I’ve disliked it since I was a child; a holiday sentiment that was unwittingly passed on to my sweet unassuming daughter. Hey, we have to have some kind of tradition!
When you get down to it, we should probably celebrate it by walking into somebody’s house and telling them we live there now. Pretty much what went down with Columbus. I’m leaving out the whole committing genocide against an entire colony of Native Americans. But why quibble about details?
Thanksgiving centers around oodles of time in the kitchen preparing a gluttonous meal only to be upstaged by the amount of time spent in the kitchen cleaning it up. It seems to be an exercise in excess and overindulgence. I’m not a fan of either (unless of course it involves chocolate).
I get the whole Norman Rockwell version of Thanksgiving but that’s not reality. In his beautiful portraits you never see people being uncomfortable, bored, irritated, tired or resentful. Thanksgiving brings out a lot of these feelings in many of us.
It is a time when you get to enjoy the family that you love and miss seeing. You also get to enjoy the company of those family members you wouldn’t mind hearing were kidnapped and have never been heard from again. Every family has at least one: a cousin, an uncle, an aunt, a sibling, whatever the relation, they tend to be the spoiler. The person you dodge while trying to be polite about it.
You drive for hours, arrive famished, visit with family while the television blasts the current football game in the background, the kids are screaming and running amok and the dog is trying to find a quiet place to hide. Who wouldn’t love it? That would be me.
In raising my daughter I participated in the family Thanksgiving for the first 10 years of her life. After that I gave her the gift of sanity. Well, my idea of sanity, anyway.
Each year we would order out an abundance of Chinese food with enough leftovers for two days. We would start a warm fire, play board games, watch a favorite old movie and stay in our pajamas all day. Then we would bake from scratch. It didn’t take long for her friends to migrate over to the house soon after their Thanksgiving dinner was done. After a couple of years I found myself with a house full of kids each Thanksgiving evening; a wonderful outcome to our new family custom.
I don’t want to sound preachy, but if we have family we love and miss, we should be getting our butts on a plane, train or automobile throughout the year. Time is shorter than we know, kids grow up fast, relatives pass on and life continues with or without us. I value my family and friends every day. I admit, it hasn’t always been this way, but time has a way of changing our priorities; and family and friends are a priority; every day. Do we really need a national holiday sitting around the table admiring a dead bird to show it? Gosh, I hope not.
Last year my daughter informed me that she would like to start her own Thanksgiving tradition. A recent transplant to L.A., she wanted to start a Thanksgiving evening for those friends of hers who also found themselves new to the city and without their families. This was the end of our traditional Thanksgiving day, and while it made me a little sad to not be included, I understood completely. Life changes and we change with it. She has done exactly what I taught her to do, create traditions of her own. Well done.
Traditions are nice but they have to work for you. When your parents are gone, your kids grown and you have friends who are alone, the landscape changes. New customs arise to accommodate our new needs and wants, as they should. Change is good and tradition is what you make it.
Each year I’ve saved a turkey, saved myself from cooking (THAT was the real holiday) and cleaning and allowed myself a calm and peaceful day. I think those days are over for me as my boyfriend craves the family experience. I understand and want to make him happy. Of course there will come a time when I will ask him to settle into a Thanksgiving evening of moo-shoo pork, sweet and sour chicken, Mongolian beef, old movies, board games and a crackling fire (ahh, I miss it already). Fair is fair.
This year holds a little irony for me as I go back a bit to my roots. We will be traveling 60 miles this year to be with my family (there will be 25+ us) so we can all have a sit down dinner of turkey. There will be rice and beans and tamales no doubt; a blending of culture and tradition. This year I shall love every moment of it. I can live without the turkey and fuss, but not without the family. They are, after all, top on my list of things to be grateful for.
However you choose to spend it, I wish you the very best of holiday. Happy Turkey Day to you all!