Come Ye Thankful People, Come - 11/23/2020
2020 is finally nearing its end, and for me, that is something to be grateful for. It has been a difficult year in many ways, some which are unprecedented in modern times. Yet Thanksgiving is this week, and we can always find something to be grateful for. Thanksgiving is that uniquely American holiday, incorporating both our mythic Pilgrim heritage with our indegafatible sense of optimism. It is usually a time to gather together with family from near and far, and to thank God for our many blessings. But this year, as with so much that has come before, the normal is challenged, and we are forced to develop new ways of celebrating.
I think this is a good thing. As I recall my long history of Thanksgivings with my family, I remember that for many years it meant my mother (helped by our three girls, to some extent), slaving for hours over a huge meal that was served on the good china in the formal dining room. We were usually finished in under a half-hour, after which the men would retire to the den to watch football, while the women were left to clean up the mess. Finally, in the late 1980s, I remember my mother looking around at the meal's remains, and exclaiming, "Is that all there is? I'm not doing this any more!" I think that was the year the men started helping with the clean-up. I always loved the food and seeing my family, but invariably the kids would squabble, in good years; in bad years one of us was always breaking up with a husband or significant other. So in 1989, when my parents' house was damaged by yet another big tornado (the one that demolished Airport Boulevard and my elementary school), we decided to go out for once. Still as a family, but no cooking or clean-up involved. And you know what? It was the best Thanksgiving I can remember with my family.
Since I don't have a family of my own, and since 1993 have lived at least 1000 miles away from my nuclear family, I have had to develop traditions of my own. The first Thanksgiving I remember cooking a turkey with all the trimmings was the first one I celebrated in 1996, our first in our new house in Foster City. We invited a couple over that also had no family in the area, also childless, and the four of us stuffed ourselves. We had way more food than we needed, and we all fell asleep in front of a fire and football afterwards. This is a very happy memory for me.
When I lived in the New York area, we didn't take the opportunity to go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, so after I moved to California we flew back for our second Thanksgiving and attended the parade. It was bitterly cold, about 10 degrees, and we couldn't get within a block of 7th Avenue and Broadway, although we did get a good view of the famous balloons from our perch on a subway entance gate on a side street. More fun was going to Central Park West the night before, where we drank hot chocolate and looked up close at the balloons being inflated, a relatively intimate event that draws less tourists than the parade. After the parade, we found one of the few open restaurants in Greenwich Village, where we dined on turkey and dressing. We flew home that night on an almost empty plane. It was wonderful.
Later years have presented more of a challenge for me, as I have been single for the last three, coming up on four. I frequently seem to get sick on Thanksgiving, so I missed parties on the first two years that I was living in Tucson. Last year, I ate turkey on tortillas with cranberries alone, and took Clara to the dog park. This year, I plan to celebrate with a neighbor by ordering a meal from Cracker Barrel - they do a great Thanksgiving - and eating it on my patio. We'll probably take Timmy to the dog park, which has become his new favorite place. I find that the only time I really wish I had a family is around the holidays, when everyone seems to have somewhere to go to visit someone who loves them. But when I remember the struggles of traveling to get to family before the holiday, and then the relative let-down of the meal and the time together, I find that I am thankful for the peace of my home, and the love of my dog. For now, it's enough. Happy Thanksgiving!
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