There are so many ways to feel about Thanksgiving. Possibly as many ways to feel about it as there are obstacles to seeing it any other way than your own. I love it fiercely. I can't imagine not loving it fiercely, though I know there are people who loathe and detest it, and have their own good reasons to do so. Love it or hate it, it's a complex occasion with plenty of up-to-the-minute, trending-now, blow-out-your-flipflop emotional side roads, and that's even before we get into its cultural and historical roots. Thanksgiving isn't simple.
All the complexities can't disguise a simple truth about it for me: I love to be with people I love, eating things that are some of my favorite things, on a holiday that is built around gratitude and does not involve presents or churches. Amid all the noise, I love that. I have had Thanksgivings that were truly awful, or hilarious, or very far from home, or all of the above, and through those glimpsed the myriad ways that people make holidays (and love them), foreign as they may be to me, as well as the myriad ways people might end up hating holidays. I feel pretty strongly that there is a high correlation between marshmallows getting involved in the main course and things ending badly, but forgive me if I am touching a nerve for you.
Marriages and divorces and deaths have wreaked havoc with our guest list over the years. There are some chairs that are filled on alternate years, and some that will always be empty. This year we will gather under a roof that belonged to my sister, who is gone almost three years now. Thanksgiving was the last big holiday we celebrated with her, under that very roof, and gathering there for the first time since she died feels, on a personal scale, important and large and defiant and good and hard and necessary and correct and probably in the end very joyful, because there will be so many people (27!) full of love, and a table laden with an embarrassment of beautiful food, and we'll note who's missing even as we say my gosh, a freshman--how the time has flown, and look--almost as tall as me now, and yes--I read that too!
Many times over the years I’ve had it explained to me (not always kindly) that hope and love and peace are chuckle-headed notions that are meaningless in the face of the true forces that shape nations: greed, power, bloodlust and the inevitability of death and destruction. Certainly we live in times that seem to argue against what can come of love.
So I think it's a kind of defiant and rebellious political act, too, this cooking our dinner and grabbing the joy of the day and counting our blessings out loud.
I wish you a peaceful holiday, how and wherever you mark the day.
A few thankful links:
- If you need to gird up your loins to face the holiday music, read this.
- Whatever the mood of the meal you are attending (or hosting), it's likely you'll be glad you watched this.
- If you are still searching for a game-plan for getting all or part of Thursday's meal out of your kitchen and onto the table, start here or here. Or here.
- If you need one spectacular dessert (or a few) to please all palates, diets and philosophies, start here and poke around (her gluten-free pie crust will make believers of the skeptical, and she offers the seedy bread of recovery to which I am devoted, among other myriad delights).
- If you need a little host-pleasing something to whip together and tote along, try this (or this) sauce, all done up cute in a mason jar, or a bag of these. Or just that seedy bread.
- If it's cranberry panic that has seized you, begin here.