Lines at the grocery store are long right now, and more often than not, everyone in line has a cart that’s brimming with the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. Some of the conversations you can overhear without meaning to focus on the difficult financial times, the violence in Mexico—which directly affects border cities like the one I live in.
To be honest, I’ve heard few happy exchanges while waiting to pick up one or another of the many items I’ve forgotten.
One conversation, though, made me flinch. Two women, well-dressed, sporting beautiful jewelry—probably sisters, although I wouldn’t swear to the relationship—were complaining bitterly about the work involved in having family over. The food would be gone in a few hours, the kids wouldn’t listen, nobody would appreciate anything.
I suppose one might say that they were expressing honest feelings and good for them.
To me, though, they were completely defeating any idea of a Thanksgiving holiday. Clearly, they had more financial solvency than many I see in line or feeding pennies into the coin machine. Clearly, too, they could simply have said “no” to the whole idea and eaten out. Or eaten sandwiches. Holidays that are forced upon others aren’t holidays, but we tend to victimize ourselves. If the tradition hurts that much—give it up. It’s dead anyway.
Personally, I love the idea of expressing thanks. I, like many, scrape by from paycheck to paycheck I gripe about my job—but I’m thankful to have it. Thankful that the young man who took my money was one of my first graders and starts college next fall. Thankful to have food that will be gone in hours, and the leftovers that will take days.
Since leaving home under duress many years ago, the memory of my mother fixing Thanksgiving dinner has carried me through some tough times. I’ve fixed turkey in a toaster oven, and this year, since the persnickety oven needs that same part again, I will fix the entire meal in two electric roasters. I’ve done it before, burned my hands—even managed to cook upside down turkey once.
My children will bring contributions—a dessert, deviled eggs made just the way my mother and I made them—and most importantly, 9 beautiful children. The oldest two already are giving advice on future meals, though they’re only seven and five.
When they go, hopefully taking food and fond memories, I’ll shake my head at how quickly the pies were snatched up, but I’ll be flattered. Then I’ll probably take a nap. I might even wind up conking out completely, although I don’t intend to.
I know I’ll think of Mom, and the sisters and brothers too far away to eat with us, but who still share our Thanksgivings every year. I’ll realize that sometimes, things as simple as walking outside on a moonlit night or as complex as a baby figuring out when to giggle to start a mass outbreak are precious things that form part of tradition. And family.
May each of you enjoy Thursday in your own way, celebrating what is dearest to you. Hold on to those traditions that heal and sustain, and let everything else go.