In case you hadn't noticed, Thanksgiving was last week. I certainly noticed - but then, it's my favorite holiday of the year. One of the family members who was with us this year commented that he didn't care much for Thanksgiving, as he's not really into the food -- and I was astonished. Nope, not because he isn't into food, but because that's what he thought Thanksgiving was about. Oh sure, there are some recipes that only get pulled out once a year... but I cook a turkey several times a year, I make cranberries even more often than I make turkey, we had sweet potatoes just last night, and the squash souffle is a winter favorite. I'm even able to persuade my husband to make his homemade noodles a few times each year. So, for me, Thanksgiving isn't about the food.
And it's also not about the Indians welcoming the Pilgrims. And frankly, it's not even about giving thanks, not really.
For me, Thanksgiving is tied in with my early memories of the holiday. The memories include extended family gathering together. There was lots of hustle and bustle throughout the day, generally focused in the kitchen, and the kitchen at my grandparents' house was a warm and wonderful place to be. And then after the meal, the kitchen was once again full -- this time, with everyone helping to clean up. No dishwashers in those days, of course, so there was plenty of work for everyone, between washing, rinsing, drying, and putting away the dishes. Except that it didn't feel like work, because everyone was laughing and talking, and enjoying being together. Sure, we cooked the food together, and we ate together, and we cleaned up together, but the food was just the excuse. That's what Thanksgiving is about... being together.
A couple days ago, someone asked me how many people we had at Thanksgiving, and I didn't know what to tell them. There were eight of us who sat down for the main meal. There were four others who had been invited, but were unable to join us for the main meal; we were very happy that they were able to join us later for dessert. But there were also two people who were too far away to join us in person, so we skyped them in. Yes, that's right. We set the laptop up on the sideboard, and they planned their meal so that they began eating when we did. We included them in our conversations, and while it wasn't the same as having them there, it wasn't bad.
And then there was my dad. This was our second Thanksgiving without him, but he was very much in everyone's thoughts, and we mentioned him, often. We have so many memories about Thanksgiving that involve him, that I don't think it will ever be possible to get through Thanksgiving without at least a handful of stories about dad.
And last but not least, it's not possible for me to go through a Thanksgiving celebration without my grandmother. She is the major reason why Thanksgiving is so important to my family. She always remarked how wonderful it was to have a holiday where the only purpose was to give thanks, and she passed her love of the holiday on to the rest of us.
So - how many people did we have at Thanksgiving? A lot.
Is Thanksgiving about giving thanks, or being together? And if it's not about the food, is it at least about the memories that are invoked as we prepare and enjoy the meal, and even clean up after the meal? Yes, yes, and yes.
And so, as I said at the beginning, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one, whatever that means to you.. whether you enjoyed the food, or the company, or even the shopping.
And of course, each Thanksgiving creates new memories. I think I'll have a cup of tea, as I consider this year's memories.