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Thankful for Thanksgiving | Manolo for the Big Girl

Thankful for Thanksgiving

It’s November. There’s an invigorating snap in the air, the nights are closing in early, and my mind turns inexorably to Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving isn’t what it was when I was a child. Back then there was time for Thanksgiving. Now before the last tiny ghoul has brought back a haul of Halloween candy, the department stores are hauling out the Christmas decorations and playing endless repeats of White Christmas on the Muzak. Thanksgiving feels as forgotten as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the winter solstice. I find that sad for all these fine holidays. But the one that hurts is the one I look forward to all year long.

Oh, people have their reasons for giving Thanksgiving short shrift. The catalogue of injustices inflicted on the native peoples of North America cannot be denied. Thanksgiving does little for the profits of most businesses other than grocers and a few caterers. Every family has a relative it’s painful to sit down to dinner with. We’ve all seen hideous torture devices masquerading as turkey and pumpkin pie. Some of us are lonely. Some of us have barely enough to scrape by, and nothing left over to celebrate with. And Heaven help you if you’re the only vegetarian or diabetic or dieter at the table! And yet, I love Thanksgiving dearly.

Perhaps it’s that part of me that still remembers what Thanksgiving was when my late mother ruled the table with a generous and bountiful iron fist. The scents that wafted from the kitchen starting a week in advance and stay with me to this day; the annual battle to get the cranberry jelly to gel properly; my contribution of pie crust because it was pretty much the only thing in the kitchen my mother wasn’t good at…it’s all a part of my personal mythology and I want it again.

Perhaps it’s the part of me that was flexible enough to have a great time at the orphan’s Thanksgiving a friend held some years ago. The host provided turkey enchilladas and the rest of the feast was potluck provided by the guests. We ate whatever appeared, sat where we could find a place to land, and either talked or watched pirate movies, as the spirit moved us.

Perhaps it’s even the part of me that still resents the Atkins diet Thanksgiving I sat through once. I’d even have been fine with that if everyone hadn’t been so busy pretending that things were what they weren’t. When someone offers me mashed potatoes or lasagne, I expect mashed potatoes or lasagne. I do not expect pureed cauliflower or thinly-sliced zucchini sauteed lightly in butter. Don’t get me wrong; offered the cauliflower or the zucchini, I would dig in happily. I love cauliflower. I love zucchini. But if you offer me lasagne and then hand me sauteed zucchini, you will earn my eternal resentment. It simply isn’t cricket.

Mostly, though, I think it’s the reminder to slow down and take stock of what’s right in our worlds. Human beings have a nearly endless capacity to believe in a better tomorrow. We also have a nearly endless capacity to believe in a better yesterday, but that’s a topic for another day. What we most often lack, though, is the capacity to appreciate what we have right here and right now.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be about dry turkey, the inevitable green bean casserole, yams desecrated with marshmallows, or your aunt’s date pinching your butt and breathing rum and Coke in your face. It doesn’t have to involve meat or a biologically-provided family. It needn’t involve any of the traditional trappings of pilgrim hats and pageants about how we gave Squanto smallpox-infested blankets.

The point is to share what you have with someone you care about, and take stock of what’s good, in this place, in this time. It’s a reminder to be where you are for a moment and see what’s good about it.

Now, who’d like a slice of pumpkin pie?

12 Responses to “Thankful for Thanksgiving”

  1. JaneC November 11, 2007 at 1:15 pm #

    I’d like a slice of pumpkin pie, thanks! I will be cooking a turkey for the first time this year–I’m getting married on Saturday, and part of our honeymoon will be our first holiday together, just the two of us. If our small turkey is a little dry, I don’t think he’ll mind much. Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday, but I think it’s about to become my most sentimental holiday.

  2. Katie November 11, 2007 at 4:16 pm #

    Mmmm, pumpkin pie. It’s good all year round, not just at Thanksgiving.

    This year will be the first year I’ve not spent Thanksgiving at home, with my biological family, which is probably good for them and me. Instead, I’ll be spending it with my fabulous roommate, and his partners, both of whom are dear friends of mine. Somehow, the four of us managed to form a family, and the love between the three of them, and their shameless, boundless affection for me did give me renewed hope for the idea of “family”–and plenty to be thankful for.

    Thanksgiving can’t come fast enough.

  3. Scarlett November 11, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    Really? I…kind of hate Thanksgiving. I am a notorious whiz with a pumpkin, apple, or mince pie. I can churn out perfect cranberry sauce without blinking an eye. And I am expected to produce these items for my family every Thanksgiving. But god forbid I actually EAT any of them. I start getting the “don’t you think you’ve had enough” whispers from my mother before I’ve finished my first helping of stuffing.

    Do other Big Girls not have this issue?

  4. dangermouse November 12, 2007 at 1:13 pm #

    When I was a child, Thanksgiving was the holiday I dreaded because it was full of – if I can rework Twistie’s phrase – “hideous torture devices masquerading as turkey and [family]” ;P

    So, yes, Scarlett: my family was wretched like yours. The good news is: because Thanksgiving is often not viewed as being as “important” as other holidays, one day you’ll get the opportunity to reclaim it as your own.

    My first great Thanksgiving happened the year after I left home. I was 18, in a new city, and my friends & I had a simple “orphan’s Thanksgiving”. At the time, I had no idea how to cook, so I think I brought chips!

    But over the years, Thanksgiving became a reason to learn how to roast an appetizing bird, set a pretty table, and host a party for people for whom I had affection, and – most importantly – who treated me well, as well. I see Thanksgiving now as an opportunity to be gracious, and it has become one of my favorite holidays.

    Because, in response to Scarlett’s Mommy-Dearest: Yes! I DID have enough! I had enough cruelty & BS; and I certainly had enough of spending time with mean people. It’s time to be thankful for good things, and having the power to reclaim a day celebrating generosity is a very good place to start.

  5. Andrea November 12, 2007 at 3:42 pm #

    In recent years I’ve had to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving and unable to spend it with immediate family, who live 2-3 hours away. I have local friends who host dinner for their family, Thanksgiving orphans and friends who can’t deal with their blood relatives. Then I visit my family on Saturday or Sunday. I get along with the fam most of the time, so it’s the best of both worlds.

  6. kayaitch November 12, 2007 at 7:55 pm #

    Well thanksgiving HAD always been one of my favorite holidays until I had my DD. DD dislikes turkey. And stuffing. And gravy. And yams, no matter how they are cooked. And cranberry sauce. And pumpkin pie. And green beans, if you please.
    If I didn’t KNOW better, I would have a hard time believing she is actually related to moi.
    The last few years, DD had been away, but now she is back…. and I am contemplating whether to cook roast beast or ham instead of the standard bird. On the other hand, maybe she could make hrself a grillcheese samwich and I can cook what I wanna eat?
    Turkey and be done with it! Pumpkin pie, or die!

  7. Scarlett November 12, 2007 at 10:59 pm #

    Oh, kayaitch, I think in that situation you must do what is best for you and the rest of everyone, and not cater to the Picky Person. I know it is hard when said Person is your Daugther whom you adore, but if you’re going to be Picky, you have to fend for yourself.

    I take a lot of guff from my family, but I don’t change the menu to accomodate someone who doesn’t have a true PROBLEM with the food – I will make plenty of vegetarian sides for my Veg friends, or leave out peanuts for peanut-allergies, but I’m not leaving out the turkey altogether, and I won’t not make something just because one party doesn’t LIKE it.

  8. Glinda November 13, 2007 at 3:34 am #

    I have a very close-knit and loving family, so Thanksgiving brings back lots of happy memories for me, as do most big holidays.

    Pumpkin pie with some whipped cream on it please, my dear!

  9. Katie November 13, 2007 at 4:26 pm #

    Scarlett, I don’t have that issue when I go home because my family doesn’t expect me to handle meat being a vegetarian, and almost ALL our Thanksgiving dishes are meat-based. I don’t eat much when I go home for Thanksgiving, and my mum compliments me on “sticking to a diet.” Um, I’m not dieting, thanks.

    But this year, my friends and I are going to a fabulous Thai restaurant for Thanksgiving. Who needs turkey when you’ve got close friends and fabulous vegetarian-friendly food?

  10. fillyjonk-knitter November 13, 2007 at 6:18 pm #

    I’m lucky in that my family loves me (and my dad is a largish person), so I never get the “oh, honey, maybe you should take less mashed potatoes” bit or “do you really think you should eat a piece of pie” bit.

    My family may not do it to me, but my health insurer, in their monthly newsletter, send out an “OMG WTF” warning (or that’s what I call them) listing the number of calories in a “typical” Thanksgiving dinner (which, and I know from portion sizes, had bigger portion sizes than what my appetite could handle).

    But the thing is: it is one stinking day out of the year. Can we not have one stinking day out of the year when we get to enjoy delicious food, maybe even put real butter on our mashed potatoes, without someone looking over our shoulders, wagging a finger and going “ah-ah-ah!”? For me, having someone tell me how many calories are in a meal suck out much of the enjoyment of it.

    I do not like kill-joys.

  11. bonnie-ann black November 15, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    i have made it a type of meditation the last few years, to ignore, block out and actively avoid, anything that smacks of rushing the holidays. i refuse to discuss christmas gifts until the end of november. i don’t go into stores that have the christmas sales and decorations up the week after halloween i love thanksgiving and refuse to rush through it. my whole crazy happy messy family loves every holiday. i put up my autumnal decorations on sept. 21st (or that nearest weekend), halloween decorations stay up through 8th or 9th of november and the autumn stuff through december 1st. we celebrate lucia’s day (old winter solstice) and my christmas decorations stay up through january 6th (and sometimes later) then the winter stuff goes up and stays up through the weekend before st. patrick’s day. if, as a culture, we could just learn to refuse to give into the commercial and shopping frenzy attitude towards the holiday, we’d all be a lot better off. my life is going by fast enough… i don’t need to let some retailing corporate boogeyman add to the speed.

  12. Mariah Mirza April 12, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    Hey!. I think you could also make more of it through a bigger exposure about \”Manolo for the Big Girl!\”. Perhaps you can have some halloween candy dishes.