A Very Different Thanksgiving

Photo by Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash.com

Happy Thanksgiving! A day of feasting, laughing with family, and taking a moment to genuinely give thanks for the good things in life. Also, it’s a day to be super lazy, watch stupid movies, and test the durability of that waistband. Is it as stretchy as they advertised? Is that a challenge? Well, consider the challenge accepted!

In case you live outside of Canada, in the United States specifically, and you’re looking at the calendar with a flash of panic or confusion? Rest easy. A whole month didn’t vanish. You aren’t losing time. More importantly, you haven’t slept through the annual Stuff Your Face Day celebrations. Your turn will come, and when it does you will feast like the people in that show, about a game or something.

I didn’t watch it, sorry.

In Canada, we celebrate it a month early because, and I had to look this up, our harvest season ends earlier than our cousins to the south. We are celebrating the bounty of our harvest. The brilliant efforts of the farmers and labourers who work so hard to keep us plump. Why not give them a day of thanks?

These fine folks, who work their posteriors off, don’t get enough credit or gratitude. I go to the grocery store, pop my produce into my cart, and I don’t think twice about who made it or how they did it. What they sacrificed? The hours of sweat and muscle strain? I can’t even grow tiny tomatoes in a flower box on my deck. These farmers produce enough food to feed an entire country, and send some abroad.

Yay, trade and economic semi-prosperity.

These people are very impressive! Seriously, I don’t know how you do it. I’m a city mouse with a weak stomach. Especially when it comes to certain smells and sticky hands. How do you do it? There must be a special gene that makes you almost superhuman. In my estimation anyway, because I can’t even imagine doing what you do every day, let alone, you know, doing it.

So once a year, as the weather turns cold and the harvest comes to an end, we take a day to savour the bounty of their tough grind. We say thank you and find other reasons to say those words as well. A day of gratitude and leisure. Family, food, and…Why can’t I think of another word that starts with ‘F’?

Who said football? Was it you? Yeah, okay, that would fit, but it’s not a big deal in my small corner of a very large country. We’re more of a hockey people, and the alliteration just doesn’t flow. Not to poo-poo on your favourite sport! It’s just not my thing so I didn’t include it. Sorry?

Why can’t I stop apologizing? Oh dear, my Canadian is showing.

Is Thanksgiving a North American holiday or is it celebrated in other countries, as well? Before I came to Canada, it wasn’t a holiday we observed where we lived. I don’t think we really knew what it was until we immigrated. I’m sure it was a vague concept in a travel brochure, but it wasn’t a part of our culture back in our old home country. Not that I can recall, anyway.

Then we came here and started colouring turkey’s in school. We dressing up as carrots for plays. There was a random Monday off of work or school. We were invited to dinners that were grand events. Tables were decorated with fallen leaves and carved out gourds. A giant turkey sat in the middle of the table, surrounded by side dishes that were topped with marshmallows.

Now, that’s a good invention! Whoever looked at a vegetable and thought: Marshmallows! Genius. I love how your mind works. Brilliant. Delicious.

Before we ate, everyone had to share one thing they were grateful for. Most people panicked and said, family or friends. Of course, they did! It’s the most obvious choice when the pressure is on, and the spotlight it bright.

Why do our brains go blank when we’re put on the spot? On any other day, I’m sure I could think of two or three things I’m thankful for that carries a vague hint of originality. The roof over my head. My cute puppy that really wants to go for a walk right now. The rain pattering on the window behind me. The smell of food cooking in the kitchen. 

And, yes, of course, I’m thankful for my family and friends. I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t want to imagine that horrible scenario! I’m going to shake my head and get rid of that image. Poof. Gone! Ah, that feels better.

I’m thankful for each of them, I love them very much, but in a world of wonderful things? Surely, I can come up with something more original. Everyone else has all ready taken it. It’s my turn. People are staring. They’re waiting for me to say something. I can’t think. My mouth is dry. My throat is closing. Am I allergic to gratitude?

Family! There, I said it. I said something. It wasn’t original. At least five people said the same thing. Am I a copycat? Stealing their gratitude and claiming it as my own. A gratitude plagiarist? As a writer, that’s a horrible, no good, very bad word. A word that should never be uttered in civilized company. It’s a word that should never be put into practice, but here I am, plagiarizing gratitude.

Oh, for shame!

Growing up, for the most part, Thanksgiving wasn’t a holiday that we celebrated as a family. Not in the way other families did, anyway. We’d have a lazy day and a nice meal, but it wasn’t an event. There wasn’t the three-day prep, or the mad dash to the grocery to find the right kind of cranberries. It wasn’t 90% stress, 10% panic, before finally settling down to enjoy a meal.

In our home, it was small, simple, and it looked a lot like every other dinner we had as a family. We ate, we talked, and the day, as a whole, was a fun little family day. We’d go to a park or explore some corner of the city we’d never gone to before. There was no work, phone calls, or distractions. It was just the four of us, being a family.

It’s wasn’t the traditional picture of this holiday. At least, it wasn’t the image I saw on tv or on greeting cards. Did I miss out on the true meaning of the holiday? Nah, it wasn’t the stereotypical celebration, but it was special because of its simplicity.

It wasn’t about the theatre or production. There was no one to impress. It wasn’t about capturing that perfect picture. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Every family has their own tradition that makes the holidays special.

It’s just, for me, Thanksgiving wasn’t a part of my life during my young, formative, years so it didn’t, still doesn’t, hold a lot of sentimental value. Most years it sneaks up on me because I forget about it. I forget that it’s a holiday. There’s a last-minute scramble to rearrange schedules so we can all get together and have a delicious meal. Some years we can make it work, but sometimes we can’t, and that’s okay. It’s not a stressful day, because the value isn’t in the holiday, but in the time together as a family. 

But this year, even though I still forgot it was coming, Thanksgiving feels a little different. Our family bubble is divided into two spheres, and we’re all taking the COVID precautions very seriously. Some of us have medical issues that need to be protected. Some of my family works in the medical field, in hospitals, and they’re directly exposed to the virus every day. For their sake, and ours, we cannot risk breaching the bubble. 

That means we’re a family divided by a global pandemic. Not in an emotional, argumentative, sort of way. We’re all in agreement. These protocols have been put in for a good reason. Science says this is the best way to stay safe and, hopefully, healthy. At the very least, it gives our family, and our community the best chance of getting out of this situation with the least number of casualties.

Which sounds so grim and callous. Way to bring down the room! All of those kids, colouring turkeys, just dropped their crayons. The decorations just sagged under the gloom. The turkey got off its serving tray gobbled out in disgust. Geez, who discusses causalities during a holiday?

Happy times! It’s supposed to be filled with happy times. That’s how holidays work, Scrooge.

First of all, that’s the wrong holiday. Second, my bad. I’m just saying that, despite these necessary precautions, not being with half of my family during the holidays kind of sucks. Even a holiday I don’t feel particularly connected too? Even a holiday I forget about? Yes, even then, because I’m not able to see my family. I can’t give them a hug; even though I’m not a hugger. We can’t sit around the table, break bread, laugh, raise a glass, and steal each other’s gratitude. 

We can’t, and we wanna, and it just sucks.

Yeah, that sounds petulant and childish. Wanting something I can’t have simply because I can’t have it? Stamping my feet, and pouting? I know, it’s not helpful, but it’s an emotional response to a very emotional year.

And it just sucks! Now, I’m just repeating myself.

This year will be different, for those of us taking the pandemic seriously, and it will be hard. We’ll have to find new ways to be together. When it’s our turn to express our gratitude, I’m sure a lot of us will say how thankful we are for the technology in our hands. We’ll get creative. We’ll connect. No, it won’t be the same, but it can still be special in a new, unique, sort of way.

I’m going over to my parents, today. We’re in the same bubble so at least we can be together. We’ll eat, we’ll talk, and at some point, technology will connect us to our other half. We’ll give thanks, and then we’ll enjoy a simple day, because, well, it’s our tradition. Maybe we’ll even spare a prayer? God, end this damn pandemic soon, so we can be with our loved ones.

If you’re in Canada, I wish you the happiest Thanksgiving! I hope you get to enjoy good food, brought to us by good people, and time with the people you love.

To those of you, all over the globe, happy Monday! Stay safe. Stay well. Be good to yourself and each other.

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