Tomorrow, if you are lucky, you will be sitting across from people you care about eating turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, yams, and whatever else your family or friends traditionally cook on this day. My family cooks German sausage along with the traditional fare; we have a chocolate turkey for desert. Of course that is along with a ton of pumpkin pie.
I’ve celebrated with family and friends on this day all over the west coast. When I lived in Seattle and was unable to make it down south for Thanksgiving I celebrated it at friend’s houses. One friend smoked a turkey and failed to start it until the middle of the day. It wasn’t finished until 10 pm. We ate everything but turkey and finally got to the turkey as a late night snack. I’ve experienced a vegetarian Thanksgiving with cousins, and even had one or two turkey TV dinners in my time. I think it was the Hungry Man dinner with corn and potatoes when neither family nor friends were an option. Those by far were my least favorite ones, although I did usually talk to family and experienced their gathering if only through the phone.
I am appreciative of the ability to be down home this Thanksgiving and seeing family face to face. Obviously I think about our soldiers overseas, not just Iraq, Kuwait, or Afghanistan, but South Korea and parts of Europe and their sacrifices. It’s not the Mondays or Wednesdays that are the hardest to be overseas and away from family, it is the Thanksgivings and the Christmas’s. Being away from family on those days is definitely a lot more difficult. I know that doesn’t always seem the case if you are chatting up your crazy uncle or nutty brother or sister-in-law but that is the truth. You get them for a couple of days a year and most of us can handle one or two days of it, and may even look forward to the bizarre exchanges.
Four hundred years ago 50 Pilgrims sat across from 90 Wampanoag Indians and ate venison and water fowl. The Pilgrims were celebrating a bountiful harvest and showing off their gun power. The Indians were interested in the new visitors and obviously not aware of the waves that would follow to one day build factories and shopping centers where everyone could buy a frozen Hungry Man dinner and a flat screen television to watch a parade and football.
We may not be experiencing our most ideal Thanksgiving tomorrow. Maybe we’ve been unemployed in forever. Maybe we lost someone close to us recently. Maybe we are undecided of where life is taking us. And maybe we are sitting in room with complete strangers. Thanksgiving though is more than the food and present company; it is memories of our past and promise of our future. Its tradition and tradition lasts.
We can build new memories and appreciate less than glorious moment’s years later with a fresh perspective. We can give thanks to another day on this planet and give thanks for another day to remember and another day to plan. If we had a bountiful harvest we can appreciate and give gratitude for that. If we did not, well we can give thanks that we have the opportunity to sow the garden and fields again next year and plants crops again. Many people in other countries don’t have the vast resources that we do, the opportunities we do, the fortunes we do. Thanksgiving is above all else appreciation for life, however you got to this great land..whether by ship, by stork, or by God. Eat whatever you like, just please no stuffed stork.