It’s time to get thankful. For 2010, something I have never done is spend my favorite holiday of the year on a plane. All. day. long. At 7am on Thanksgiving, I head north to Seattle, east to Boston, and then cross the deep blue sea east to London, arriving at 10pm. Well, then the powers of time travel kick in because it will actually be 6am on Friday.
So what do I do? Have a crap pre-Thanksgiving lunch the day before? Have never been a fan of roast turkey (except for sammies the day after made from leftovers), but my memories of Thanksgiving were nearly always beautiful.
Growing up, there were always a ton of people from everywhere, a diverse group from friends to family to step-siblings and cousins. I think it peaked in about 1992, when I was in my sophomore year of college, doing a Photo & Culture essay at my mother’s home, where she had to rent tables because we had a record-breaking 20 guests. The favorites were still there back then – including mine, the stuffing and the apple pie.
Over the years, as with life, Thanksgiving evolved. One year in Seattle I couldn’t afford to go home, and spent it alone, in tears. It’s a holiday that was never about gifts or unrealistic expectations or financial prostitution, it was about going around the table expressing gratitude, being with everyone you’ve known forever, lots of hugs and lots of love and lots of conversation. So when things changed, I changed.
When I was married we went out to dinner instead – why make a turkey for two? We picnicked on Coronado Island and watched the sun set. We gorged on non-poultry in a small bistro in Santa Barbara. Then, one year, I tried to do it. She paid me to buy a turkey of her choice and they came down to our little apartment. His stepfather came and my half-sister flew in. She undercooked the turkey and it bled. My little sister had a shitty attitude and refused to speak to anyone, moping around when I invited her to peel apples for the pie to be one of the girls in the kitchen. But my infamous mac ‘n’ cheese was a hit. And the walk on State Street after dinner, that was lovely. Always liked a walk after dinner – miss that feeling of just absorbing the cool autumn evening after a big meal. Of course, after that they didn’t spend even 10 minutes with us for their other 4 days in town. It broke me in two to have them express no interest in us as a couple. Of course, we went to see No Doubt and Garbage and she wouldn’t come into the audience to dance and have fun, choosing to mope along the sidelines in the back (fuck it, I enjoyed the show). I have no patience for those who choose to swill around in their own misery, brooding, self-pitying. Grow the hell up.
When I got back to my hometown, things were different as well. No great welcome home. My dog was stressed and she did nothing to make me feel invited. So we went to our attic, laid on the mattress, and fell into a deep sleep. I guess being back in my hometown reminds me that it’s just where I was born, not a place of tradition. Childhood was left in the past, and it was time for me to create a new reality. So my father dies and I forget how to live. I spent the holiday with my new love and met his family for the first time, only to find out days later he was never truly committed to me. Last year I spent it with a friend and her family, and realized after watching that angst that I’d rather be alone than ever feel so isolated.
So this year, I am grateful for all the lessons, the blessings, the peace. I head towards something where the finish line is not drawn, where the outline hasn’t been developed, where I just know that I’ll be able to be mellow, to laugh, to feel safe. My friend and I will ride the train, I will sleep, we will catch up on conversation and take walks along the river Spey. I will get to try Scottish salmon and sip a little Scottish whiskey in the land where my maternal grandmother’s family originated. Then we will take the train back down to London-town, where I will get to wander a neighborhood or two where my maternal grandfather’s family lived before departing for America nearly 400 years ago. And best? Time near the sea, time to play, time to holiday, time to be grateful for everything. No matter what day it is.
Thanksgiving is something that will continue to evolve. It is only October, I know, but I rode through crunchy leaves tonight and saw the stars last night and feel the rain coming in tomorrow, and I know that all I can do is be thankful for the little things and spread this out over the season.
Ten things I can think of right this second that made me smile, squeal, laugh out loud in 2010…in no particular order…
1. Planning, planting and harvesting a real, genuine garden. Planting most things by seed and not having a clue. Shoveling truckloads of soil. Watching nasturtiums take over the world and the sunflowers being above my reach even on my tippy toes.
2. Laying out in the middle of a grassy space and watching shooting stars like little kids.
3. Twelve dozen truffles sold in 2 weeks to one customer, renewing my hope in Bittersweet.
4. Picking blueberries on Sauvie Island with one of my favorite girlfriends and 2 of her kids.
5. COOKIES FOR A DOLLAR! My friend’s son shouting to the cyclists passing by my table. Walking with him to my house to sneak some dessert back to his mom’s as a surprise and photographing him at about half the height of the sunflowers. He and his papa were on a tandem bike yesterday and were hit by a car and he spent a night in the hospital. Fortunately they were both just banged up, but I was in tears just getting my friend’s message today, her heart and their beautiful little family I so adore. (Fuck Kerby Street, but I’ll tell that in a less grateful tale later).
6. Four hours of conversation and being called a star.
7. Watching a friend’s daughter wrap her arms around my beloved pup, lay her head on her tummy, and my girl Daisy loving every minute of it.
8. The smiles and giggles of the year-old Julian each time his mama and best pup Roxy stroll by the house.
9. Watching one of my best friends be a mom to her three girls, especially as one of them went through open heart surgery. Taking them all out to ice cream and feeling normal. For once.
10. Figuring out, through friends and neighbors and writing and images and gardens and work and therapy that you know what? No matter what happens, I really am going to be OK and yes, it really is a wonderful life.
close your eyes, open your eyes, say thank you.
and hope that you can have a slice of apple pie in london and feel a little thanksgiving-y…