I wasn’t a big fan of Thanksgiving growing up. It was that holiday that wasn’t really a holiday. A day that all the adults made a great hubbub about, but one that a child has difficulty seeing the value of.
There are no presents. No lucky money. No one person to focus the occasion upon. No goody bags. It’s always just been a meal with as much of the family present as possible.
And nothing has changed since childhood. It’s still just a meal. But my perception has changed. There’s a greater appreciation. In fact, Thanksgiving may be, if not my most favourite, my most valued holiday of the year.
Of course, it strikes me as perfectly natural that the second Monday in October is a day that only becomes more treasured as time passes. As kids, we are focused on material objects. Christmas reigns supreme. Sitting around a stuffy table while our elders spouted some nonsense about how important the day is shouldn’t be particularly high on any juvenile’s list.
My last few have been some of the most memorable of my life. For the past three years, I’ve gathered with friends for some grand old Thanksgiving potluck dinners. Each one has been better than the last. In a generation often so flippant about expressing feelings openly, Thanksgiving is a welcome prompt for whatever seems too soppy for general day-to-day hangs. And even at these events, there’s seldom that much more said on the topic. But there doesn’t need to be. It’s understood. There’s a knowing in the room that needn’t manifest itself as an obvious show.
Until this year though, my family’s side of things had not really seen the same transformation of feelings that my friend circle had managed to elicit. It was something my maturing self still needed time to grasp. Dinner with the folks still had the somewhat onerous understanding that dishes would be a chore after. Everyone showed up, and the future didn’t appear to be in any danger of switching things on us. This Thanksgiving was completely different.
For one, it was my first Thanksgiving as an adult. I have escaped high school, graduated from Douglas, moved out on my own, and am completely self-sufficient financially. Whatever immature remnants of resentment I could bear towards my parents for chores and house rules no longer exist. The last prominent but fragile bastion of childhood—dependence on my parents for a roof over my head—erased. I don’t pretend to have become a yogi overnight; I still have a long way to go in fully considering the world as a whole. But the minor changes have already done a world of good. I eagerly anticipate meals with family when I can make them. My relationship with my parents and my brother feels better than it has in years.
This has also been my first year that I’ve truly had to deal with loss. Both of my grandparents on my father’s side passed away in the spring. It was unexpected, as I suppose it always is, to say the least. My grandmother, with the Guinness and Irish in her, had always been fit as a fiddle even as her mind began to fail, and I’d still routinely watch my grandpa and his irons handle me with ease on the links. Her plucky spirit and his amusingly endearing phrases (“sufficiently suffonsified” will always be my go-to for being full) left an emotional crater I was quite unused to. It was easily the most difficult part of my short career in this life to date.
Their absence this Thanksgiving was painfully obvious, but in a strange way, not upsetting. It’s not that I don’t miss them—I always will—and it’s not that I haven’t accepted their passing, but that their deaths have magnified what remains. We have a small family. My mother’s parents are still alive and well. My mother and father show no signs of slowing down themselves. My aunt and uncle are similarly clicking along. And my brother is as able as I am.
So as we move past this bane of materialistic wants, for the first time I can say that I’m honestly and truly thankful. Thankful for every single remarkable person who allows me to be a part of their life, and for what those who have passed were, and always will, mean to me.