It was once about large family gatherings and loaded tables, with relatives and loved ones close and health and happiness abound.
It was about a perfectly cooked and stuffed bird, with napkins folded just so and silverware correctly aligned, left to right.
It was about a cornucopia of edible options arrayed in haphazard yet logically-collected spread.
It was about gorging until we could take no more, stuffed until a food coma was inevitable.
It was about a football game playing on the television in the background, and pockets of people congregating with coffee and desert, grumbling about the game or how overstuffed they were feeling from all of the delicious food.
It was about giving thanks for the success of the year, for family and friends, for health and well being. It was even sometimes about God.
It was about hotels, long trips to visit in-laws and the unknown hovels of distant family. It was about appreciating the journey, even if the road was long and tiring.
It was about remembering the past, appreciating the blessings of our lives and hoping for the future.
And then it comes.
The present, where the tree has withered and snapped away so fully to the point where the day of thanks is what you make it.
The large family tables folded up and pushed into dusty garages with the passing of each relative, until there are no garages left and home is not the same, nor familiar.
The bird exchanged for a vegetarian lifestyle in caloric harmony with the ecosystem — and with his own system. After a decade of gut pain caused by gorging at the trough and buffets, less is more. Plethora is exchanged for basic. Mostly full is the goal, instead of bursting with regrets.
It was about football and other entertainment routines, until politics and football became the overstuffed birds on the thanksgiving schedule and getting to bed early became a blissful , selfish target for rare time away from thoughts about what’s going on at the day job.
It was about hotels and traveling and in-laws and over-commitments, until it wasn’t — due to infidelities and strains and endings and disconnections
And growing old, growing apart.
The myth and magic of Thanksgiving exchanged for the reality of how America has plundered the Native Americans, and still does to this day through imposing oil pipelines and diminishing reservations. Cartoons of pilgrims and “Indians”, happily exchanging pumpkins and gourds and engaging in neighborly feasts in celebration of the conquerors, when the present state is a starkly different picture. I have to imagine that true Native Americans despise this Euro-fabricated event called “Thanksgiving”. What happened to the Native Americans of North America at the hands of religious refugees from distant shores is not a past to be celebrated. Once Europeans arrived on the shores of North America, their lives would never be the same.
In time, the holiday of Thanksgiving was left up to me to define. The family tree became too tough and frail to pull together, with leaves falling away with each successive year. When the Hallmark spin is gone, the parade out of fuel and pageantry, and the wreath’s luster lost, there is nothing but silence and time.
As someone who has pushed a chronic health condition into remission when others can’t or couldn’t, and who once believed he didn’t have much time left on the planet, I believe we should be more generally gracious. Giving thanks shouldn’t be relegated to an annual event bolted on top of mythical ideals.
We should give thanks on a daily basis. Not to a God, nor a Supreme Being first. But to each other — the humans that make our lives worth living. The loved ones. The random ones. The struggling ones and needy ones alike. There is a virtuous and graceful circle of kindness and gratuity that we are important members of.
That circle is the human race. I give thanks to every human who engages in my life and drives me to smile. With out you, there would be too much silence and too many buffet dinners with the ghosts inside my head. Eventually, all tables fold up, lights power down and routines end. The need to be gracious and humble and thankful for the love and care of other humans never will.