I’ve never had what you’d call a typical Thanksgiving. You know, television special Lifetime movie Thanksgiving with real, grownup place settings and a beautiful bronzed turkey carcass with the white paper chef’s hat things on the feet and candles on the table and people asking each other politely to pass the salt.
Growing up in Hawaii, Thanksgiving was a loud, festive, cousin-filled event. Of course, we had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce from the can with the little ridges on it, which is, I believe, the way the Pilgrims enjoyed it. Because TRADITION. However, it wasn’t weird to also have fried Chinese noodles, kalua pig, poi, macaroni salad, a strange Jell-O salad thing that was somehow disturbingly crunchy, poke (Hawaiian style raw fish), and sushi. You said grace – usually a long-winded affair led by my father – and then everyone grabbed a paper plate and lined up at the big table that was covered with the dishes the moms and aunties had cooked. If you were a kid, it was very important to get a handful of black olives from the veggie tray so you could stick them on the ends of your fingers and wave at people. Once your plate was loaded with as much food as its tensile strength would allow, you found a spot somewhere, for kids usually the floor, and got busy.
Now, Thanksgiving is still about food and family and gratitude, but it remains nontraditional. In the years since I left Hawaii, I’ve found myself celebrating Thanksgiving in a teensy tissue-box sized apartment in Tokyo, and then in Seattle, and now California – no large extended family around, no constant except the little nucleus that is the family I’ve made with my husband and kids. Plus? Although I have huge crafty, homemaking aspirations, I have limited energy and willpower. I’ve made peace with this. I’m not going to be the person with a gorgeous centerpiece. I mean, I want to be that person. I want, like, placemats. And elegant appetizers and main courses with silver domed covers. I want a goddamned CHAFING DISH. The thing is, that’s not my life. That’s not even what makes me happy. What makes me happy is cooking all day in my pajamas, marathoning Doctor Who on Netflix because I’m a season behind, and threatening my family with a wooden spoon if they get underfoot. I get happy watching them descend on the food like a plague of locusts and listening to my little daughter read out “discussion questions” – she has a set of conversation starter cards she likes to trot out for family dinners – and then I like all of us sprawling on the couch in a dazed stupor to laugh and talk and watch TV. Thanksgiving is our family day of rest and gluttony, and it’s great that it’s just us. I like a noisy, informal celebration the next day when our chosen family all pile into the house with their kids and the grownups play socially unacceptable card games while the children run amok. That’s what I like. That’s what I’m thankful for.
So this year, I’m letting myself off the guilt-hook for doing Thanksgiving the way we’ve always done it, which is exactly as we damn well please. We’ll never be a glossy, magazine cover picture, but that’s just fine. Don’t get me wrong – it will be festive. I’ll put on deodorant and brush my hair and everything. I’m just going to focus on what it is instead of what I think it should be. Thanksgiving is not the boss of me. I am the boss of it.
3 Things That Were Good:
1. It’s UGG boot season. I don’t understand all the recent disdain for myself and my fuzzy booted-brethren, but I tell you what – I don’t care. Fleece lined boots are a hug for your soul.
2. Right now I have a heap of goodies on my bed. My husband and friends surprised me with a birthday dinner involving Mexican food and something called a Maker’s Mark Swirl. Basically, that’s a margarita and sangria mixed together in slushy harmony, and then a shot of bourbon over that. To those of you who question the wisdom of combining that concoction with Mexican food, I say: No excuses! Play like a champion. Anyway, I scored a bunch of good stuff. For some reason, my buddies always gift me with coffee, coffee mugs, coffee-related paraphernalia, booze, and notebooks. It’s like they know me or something.
3. I had a terrible, 24-hour stomach thing. No other symptoms, just SUDDEN BARFING. It was violent and unpredictable, and I think I scared the cats. How was this good? It only lasted 24 hours, and it gave me a deep appreciation for simple things like drinking water. “Oh, hey! A cracker! This cracker is the most delicious thing I have had in 24 hours, and it is not making my stomach angry. I love you, cracker. You are my new best friend, but I am going to put you in my face now.” Gratitude, friends. It’s everything.
2 Things I Did Well:
1. I forgave my barfy, busy, imperfect self and found solace in the tasks I was able to perform.
2. I don’t want to brag or anything, but I’ve perfected my shower karaoke rendition of “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae.
1 Thing I’m Looking Forward To:
This Thanksgiving weekend, I shall commence watching Gilmore Girls – a show everyone I know says I will love, but that I somehow managed to miss the first time around. I think I was busy birthing babies and moving overseas and whatnot. Now, it is time.
What is your Joyful Meditation for this week?