Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Thanksgiving Joys & Noise
Maybe it comes with age, or maybe I was just late to the party, but I enjoy Thanksgiving more with each passing year. I have really grown to love this holiday, and not merely because of the food. I have jotted down a few reasons for my own sake. In addition, I have written down a few things that bother me about Thanksgiving, because you would probably be worried about me if I didn't.
• I am growing to have a greater love for the idea of "homecoming." Now that my kids are growing up, and some have left the nest, there is always a missing piece - an empty spot - in both our hearts and home. When the FOMLs show up for the holidays, or return from missionary service, that void is immediately filled.
Right now we have one son out on a mission, and we miss him terribly. He is the only one that is absent this year. Sure, we don't necessarily WANT him here when he should be somewhere else, but we are constantly aware that he is not here. One nice thing this year: With FOML2 getting married, we now have another family member to add to the mix. She replaces no one, but creates her own spot that is obvious empty when she is not here.
I think that I did not understand this sort of homecoming (accidental U2 reference) when I was younger - specifically during my college days. I would come home from BYU and my parents were so excited to see me. I would do the obligatory gatherings, then take off with my friends. My parents were surprisingly patient with me. Regret? A little. Do I miss them? Yes. Especially this time of year. I can't help but think that this desire for a homecoming will only intensify as the great and final homecoming nears.
• Anytime is always a good time to focus on gratitude. President Eyring made the point last year that ingratitude is an offense to God. (link) Yep, it's a sin, but I think it is one that we all do better at avoiding specifically because the focus November brings. We make lists (mine here), we express our gratitude more freely with our friends, our family and our God. There is no downside to this. Gratitude breeds charity. It makes us better people. Yes, it would be better if we had this sort of attitude all year long. baby steps..
• I enjoy the tradition of the Thanksgiving Feast. Yes, we eat far too much. Yes, it is over-the-top. But it also can remind us of how blessed we are, and remind us of the incredible abundance that has been poured out on our land. The are few places on the planet that have anything to compare to our average grocery stores. For all the division and struggle that we wrestle with as of late, we still have it better than the vast majority of the world. I think we forget that sometimes...
• The foods we prepare carry tremendous family tradition. Even when our feast is at someone else's home, we still do it all up again the next day. I declared myself the official turkey preparer some 20+ years ago, and refuse to relinquish the title. From an early age, each one of the FOMLs got up early and sat at the counter to break the bread for stuffing. Each one has tried my EC's vinegar dumplings, to mixed results. Pumpkin cheesecake is now a part, and brussel sprouts with bacon are my youngest's favorite Thanksgiving veggies. Our visiting FOML1 added the new tradition of making pumpkin pancakes. Family traditions evolve, but they are still our family traditions. We let go of some, and replace them with others, and that's what makes out family unlike any other.
• When everyone is home, the volume goes up exponentially - and that is fine. Hearing the kids laughing together, and having dance parties makes our house feel full. It is not noise at all.
Which brings me to...
• Yes. I completely understand that there are healthier ways to make a Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, I know we consume a ridiculous number of calories on this one day. I DON"T CARE. If you do, that is fine - but I'd rather not hear about it. There are a handful of days throughout the year that are special. If you want to eat healthy on those days, or hold to your special diet on those days, that is fine with me. Just stop banging your drum long enough for us to enjoy the holiday. I'm tired of news reports telling me how much fat is in a normal Thanksgiving meal - which I eat maybe three times a year - if you count leftovers. Put the scale away for a day, and relish what we are blessed with. (Note: If you are on a special diet for diabetes, Crohn's or celiac, etc., then obviously I'm not talking to you. Do what you need to do.)
• I understand that the classic Pilgrim+Indians=Thanksgiving story is not accurate. Again, I DON'T CARE. I don't need anyone droning on about genocide and what the pilgrims really ate, while I am trying to enjoy a "Traditional Thanksgiving Feast." While it may not be the same feast the Pilgrims enjoyed -it is OUR traditional feast, and our traditions are more important to me than those of the Pilgrims. If you feel the need to correct everyone's misperceptions about the First Thanksgiving, do it another time - like in June.
• Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Garage Sale Tuesday. The rich irony of this weekend never ceases to amaze me, and it gets worse every year. Our celebration of gratitude culminates with an orgy of greed. Shopping and spending has almost supplanted Thanksgiving entirely. I understand that Commerce is just responding to the market, and as a business owner, I can't fault the stores for opening ever-earlier - but I choose not to respond to the cultural shift. In my home, and heart, The Christmas season does not start until Thanksgiving is over.
• Everyone knows when Thanksgiving occurs well in advance. It is not a secret. If you are going to attend someone else's celebration, show up on time! It takes effort and planning to put a feast on the table, but it takes real talent to have it all hot and ready at the same time. Timing is everything. So if you are the family assigned to bring the mashed potatoes, and you show up 45 minutes late, you should feel like jerks - you've earned it. Plan ahead!
OK. Done venting. I love Thanksgiving, and I get frustrated as I see this great tradition waning as commercialism encroaches.
My best wishes to you, my fellow travelers, this Thanksgiving weekend. May you have time and desire to find gratitude wherever you look, and especially when you look towards each other, and towards God.