Today is the day designated for giving thanks, and I expect everyone out there to be doing something much more important than reading my blog. I hope you all are stuffing your faces with turkey, delighting in sweet potatoes, and enjoying pies of every kind, while watching football and hugging loved ones and remembering all the reasons why you are blessed. Because certainly, if you are doing any of those things, (or even if you ARE reading this blog), you are fortunately blessed.
I am currently in Colorado Springs, sipping a <FREE> mimosa (“Yes, good woman, I WILL have a mimosa as I type in the hotel lobby!”), hanging with my parents and the dogs (although not inside the hotel lobby), and reflecting on this day.
Thanksgiving has always been a weird holiday for me. Well, okay, maybe not always. But it has never been—I don’t know—a big deal ? in my family. Back in the day, when my pseudo-sister from Ethiopia still lived with us and we had people to invite over from church and my grandparents were still alive, etc etc, we would make the big dinners and use the “real” dining room table with the magenta tablecloth and my parents’ wedding china and make enough food to feed a small army. But even those years were punctuated with abnormal celebrations, like hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where we spent two Thanksgivings eating turkey at Phantom Ranch, ignoring our screaming calves and the threat of a 13-16 mile trek back up the next day.* Two Thanksgivings I spent in Hawaii, which was a weird time to be in a tropical climate, and for a handful of Thanksgivings, I was adopted by East Coast families or had Friendsgivings and experienced the traditions of others’.
*I was not happy about this. I also hated hiking. My my, how the times have changed.
I’ve always been envious of the big family Thanksgivings. When I dated a guy whose mother was one of sixteen children, I had THE BEST TIME at his family’s events. Plus, every day felt like a big celebration because he had brothers and sisters, and they had kids, and there was always something happening. Being an only child, I’m not accustomed to all that activity, and I soak it up like a sponge. Living that life allowed me understand how a person can be so content without being on the phone or internet constantly and without ever having to leave the house. I think back to some of my happiest times, and they come from being surrounded by people who love each other and feeling like I’m a part of their collective joy.
On my last night in Greece, after the midnight hour had passed and my birthday cake had been brought out and only our writing cohort remained, sitting in a circle around the band, singing along with the songs (or listening to people who speak Greek sing along), I experienced that moment of unparalleled joy. I was a part of it, but I was also outside of myself, looking in on that moment. Tsipouro and wine and the remnants of a feast filling the table, the shephard, beekeeper and fisherman singing and swaying alongside their grandkids, the Greeks and Americans together as a family—it felt like the greatest Thanksgiving of all time. Earlier in the month, our workshop leader had turned to me, after a few tsipouros, also on a night with music, and said, “Are you happy? Because I am happy. THIS makes me happy,” waving his glass-filled hand to encompass the whole patio. I could see he was filled with an overflowing joy, just by observing everyone there enjoying themselves and being able to sit alongside them. On our final night, that was how I felt. Overflowing with joy.
That’s not the only time I felt that way, but I think of that moment now. Shortly after my return from Greece, I bought plane tickets that would have had me on Thassos today. Because Thanksgiving is this weird sort of holiday for me, I thought a vacation to the other side of the world would be just the thing to soothe my soul.
And I have no doubt I would have enjoyed my time there, had I not cancelled those tickets. It wouldn’t have been like the summer, but still—it’s Greece. It’s calling to me. But I am happy to be here now. In Colorado, with two people who gave me life, whom I only get to see only once or twice a year. I know there will be days in the future where I will sit at a long tables filled with friends and family, perhaps not by blood but by something that runs just as deep, and I am thankful to have that to look forward to. And I’m thankful to have had those experiences in the past.
But for now, I will enjoy the quiet moments, the Mom-Dad-Jenny time, the fact that my dad is off hiking with dogs in snow and ice and my mom is yelling at him to get Koa out of the snow, overlooking the fact that Detroit massacred the Eagles, and be thankful that this, too, is my story.
I hope that all of you, whatever your story or wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, have memories that make you smile, reasons to be grateful in the present, and something to look forward to in the future.
“Are you happy? Because I am happy. THIS makes me happy.”
Thanks for being a part of my story today.
“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed..Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.” Psalm 126:4-7