Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. To our modern understanding and sensibilities it can be hard to reconcile the historical record with what the day is supposed to represent. When I was growing up, making hand-shaped turkeys in school, it was easy to buy into the feel-good story of European settlers and native people sitting down together for a communal feast. Maybe it happened, it probably didn't, but what came later- disease, one-sided war, cruelty and inhumanity- of that we have no illusions. Not anymore.
But as our understanding and acceptance of the historical context has changed, the holiday itself has taken on its own meaning, tradition, and sensibilities. Truthfully, we don't need pilgrims and falsehoods in order to have Thanksgiving. Family, fidelity, togetherness and-yes- even thankfulness are reason enough.
My mother passed away nearly five years ago. Losing her was one of the most painful experiences of my life. It was to her house the family gathered every year for Thanksgiving. My clearest and most cherished memories of her take place around the holiday. The busyness of her decorating and preparation. The late night before and early morning of. The joy she felt at having everyone she loved around her for that precious day. When I close my eyes I'm still 6 years old- footy pajamas in the kitchen, my entire world the smell of her cooking, the warmth of hugs.
I miss her every day- every moment of these past several years. The pain dulls but the empty place in my heart is still there, always with me. I wish she were here, now, to see what I've accomplished in my life. I wish she were hear to be here with us all as we gather at my home, as I take up the mantel and do my best to fill her apron.
Thanksgiving isn't pilgrims or plenty to me. It's the memories and gratitude I feel for having been blessed with an amazing family, loyal friends and a life filled with joys and wonders beyond counting or measure. I am grateful for blessings big and small- not of the religious variety, but simply the minor and major wonders which shape me, have shaped me and will shape me.
Alice Walker wrote one of my favorite novels- The Color Purple. Her prose is poetry, rich with warmth and wisdom. Of thanks, she writes; “'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”
Prayer isn't part of my life anymore. Prayers are just wishes- and as with all wishes they tend to be selfish and misdirected. But I do say thank you, sincerely, respectfully and with all the love in my heart.
To my husband, I thank you for loving me and protecting my fragile heart with loyalty and gentleness that borders on the divine.
To my sister, I thank you for giving me someone to never doubt, always admire and forever respect beyond words.
To my mother, I thank you for raising me, for loving me and for teaching me every lesson on kindness, love, generosity and faithfulness.
And to my friends, each of you whether I see you each day or have never met you in person- I say thank you for inspiring me and filling my life with laughter and joy.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. My family. To each of you, one and all- Thank you.