26 November 2008
OK, let it be said: Thanksgiving is my top candidate for "favorite holiday."
Maybe because it's the only one our family celebrates that is exclusively American, yet not linked so garishly to patriotism as July 4th. Make no mistake, I am a patriot, if a critical one--more the style of our recently elected president; not of the flag waving, "love it or leave it" sort. I embrace much in our democracy and our culture, and I own up the things I'd rather disavow. I grill burgers and hot dogs, eat greasy potato chips, and make fruit pies on Independence Day. Plus, I love fireworks. But Thanksgiving is so much better.
Yes, there's some unease around the story--let's call it guilt--if you want to consider the way settlers/invaders of the "New World" ultimately repaid the kindnesses of the native people, who helped the pilgrims survive the winter and celebrate their first life-sustaining crops.
And, yes, Macy's and Hallmark have managed to put their commercial spin on it all--though the annual parade in New York is still a "must" if you are or have a child.
And perhaps I can "afford" to love the holiday, because it does not involve family arguments and old injuries brought up around the table--we are so functional as to be an anomaly in this day and age, I think--and also because we do have the financial means to indulge in a hearty (but not obscene) home-cooked meal of fine ingredients.
This is the point, I guess. It's about the turkey and gravy and cornbread dressing (my paternal grandmother's recipe); it's about the sweet potato casserole WITH marshmallows, thank you very much; it's about the pecan pie that we don't dare tamper with (again, grandma's recipe)... though one year I did make a chocolate version that was heavenly, and that I was promptly told would be appropriate for any of the other 364 days of the year! But even more than the food (gasp!) it's truly about family, about traditions and taking a moment to honor them. And Thanksgiving is, to my knowledge, the only public holiday that is completely secular and yet embraces this core idea that belongs to any religion: to show gratitude for the blessings we have, however they may have come into our lives. When else are we reminded, as an entire nation, to be thankful?
There is always something to be thankful for--even in hard times, even facing global crises of finance, of the environment--and I think it's even more important now to articulate the ways in which we are lucky, too; to not lose sight of the fact that we have so much, even as many of us fear losing jobs, homes, other valuables.
This year, I am most thankful for my son. For the way he lives in the moment, for the intensity of his feelings, his passion and boundless energy; I am thankful for his curiosity and kindness, his kisses, songs, and things made out of Legos. I am thankful for his love of learning, and the quality education he is receiving. (That's his classroom, decked out for a Thanksgiving feast in the photo above).
He says he is thankful "for sleeping in grandma's bed"... which he will no doubt find a way to do this year, as we head to Connecticut to visit. And I know he's thankful for the hand-knit necktie I made for him to wear at the school's celebration this week (but that's another story!).
I am thankful that as a "class parent" I had the privilege of serving close to 20 kindergarteners, who were all adventurous in tasting the menu (some whom are from other countries and have never had this traditional American fare), and who were very well mannered at the table, remembered please and thank you, and who read aloud a statement of thanks for their parents and their school. It was so obvious that, at least for the day, they meant it with all their hearts. (THANKSGIVING TIP: If you ever want a true experience of what the holiday should be about, find a way to place yourself at the epicenter of a spontaneous "group hug" with a dozen plus 5- and 6-year-olds!!)
I am thankful for my husband and his hard work, without which we would not have many of the basic things. And for his companionship.
I am thankful for my friends, their support, their honesty, and their laughter.
I am also thankful for my parents, for too many reasons to name (they know, I've told them).
This year, I am thankful that we will still gather and share the same, time-tested recipes. We'll be doing this in a rehab center (for physical therapy; my father is recovering from knee replacement surgery), bringing the meal along with us, and toasting to health in a private space on site that we've managed to reserve for a couple of hours. If you can't come to the Thanksgiving table, then the table will come to you! That's how we operate in our family. Together at all costs, with gratitude.
And now, excuse me while I get the pie out of the oven.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.