Who knew that there were so many rules to Thanksgiving?
There aren’t any, at least, not that I knew of, until I found out there were a lot:
- You must serve the right foods. Not anything will do.
- You must celebrate with family. Friends don’t count (that’s Friendsgiving not Thanksgiving).
- You must show up on time and with painful show smiles.
- You must watch football; it’s un-American if you don’t.
- You must [fill in the blank].
Sounds like a lot of fun, right? No, not really.
This time of year is actually always difficult for me and it’s not because of the holiday itself – I could not care less about the specific holiday – but, rather, because of what it represents. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family and togetherness, at least that is what I’ve been told. How it has played out for many of my friends is a teeth-clenching, nail-biting, Olympic-level skating routine with a nuclear time bomb strapped to your chest tick-tocking its way down to detonation with every single moment of eye contact you make with a “close family member.”
That is not how I want it to be.
I have always imagined it, and wanted it – “it” being this “time of year” in the entirety – to be about an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, to share stories and laughter, to have gratitude for the good things, to give silent witness and acceptance of the bad things and losses, and to look forward into the coming year with hope and bonhomie.
In the trying times that we all live in today, the world over, we need these moments of reflection and softness. We need these opportunities to support one another and to put it all in the proper context: we are alive, we are in good company, and we have enough to eat and enjoy.
On Thursday, I made too much mac and cheese (there was an incident) and stuffing. There was an amazing lentil soup with Israeli soup croutons. No pernil, but definitely Dominican rice and peas. Candied yams, green beans, potato salad, and turkey (oh, taste that tryptophan). And booze, because, of course.
Most of all, there were the inhabitants of my island of misfit toys, us strangers in this strange land of The District, and enough laughter and smiles and absurdity to banish all the rules and all the worries for just one night.
We gave thanks and it was more than enough: it was good.
(Ask me about melons, kibbutzes, and that one time at band camp – it’s a good story, I promise)