My husband and I always get into a heated discussion about this time of year. It goes something like this. Me…. “Let’s go somewhere for Thanksgiving.” Him…”I’d be happy to cook Thanksgiving dinner at home. You know our kids really miss out on traditions.” And then in his mind he adds, “They miss out because of your holiday issues.” From there, the discussion goes downhill quickly and we add a few more topics to debate more efficiently.
I don’t like Thanksgiving and I don’t like Christmas either and it has nothing to do with the actual holiday, religious aspects or decorations. Those things don’t bother me. I don’t like the expectations and impending disappointment that both holidays promise and not just for me. Thanksgiving is about football, I think, and doing dishes and eating too much. I try to be grateful and thankful every day and the expectation of spending holidays with family and friends is just stressful. It’s great if it happens, but it’s never that easy for every reason that you already know about and then you feel guilty for not making the effort or making the effort and then everything not being perfect.
So it’s either a stressful travel sprint to go and see family on the worst travel weekend ever or have a get together at our house and invite everyone because that’s what you do when you’re hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner at your own home. That means there’s always someone that isn’t having fun or can’t eat the food you’re cooking and then the awkward conversations between people eating a giant meal together for the sole reason that it’s Thanksgiving. So we shop for hours, make an enormous meal, an even bigger mess and spend the waning hours of the already exhausting day cleaning up. Oh yeah, and this is so Scott can use his grandmother’s dishes (and give the kids traditions, I know). I’d be happy to just use his grandmother’s dishes once a week for dinner.
I know I sound like a hater and a negative person and that’s okay because I know that in my heart I am not. Christmas ups the eating tradition with gift giving to make people feel even more stressed because Christmas gifts are expensive and expected, especially for kids, who really just want Santa to be real. Honestly, no one really needs anything except for the people that really need things like food or medical attention or housing. Christmas is a time where the haves and have-nots are brilliantly contrasted and again there is that dinner which is just food for tradition’s sake. Blah, Blah, Blah. I’m sure that I need counseling.
And I find it so hypocritical that Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two days a year communities all over the country go out of their way to provide for the struggling people in their midst. If the same Herculean effort was made throughout the year, things might be different. Who can survive on two giant meals a year? No one.
So every year Scott and I fight about these two holidays and the only thing that I really feel badly about (between Scott and the kids and I, because that other stuff is real and big) is that maybe I am depriving my kids of traditions. We’ve already started the conversation this year and I even asked our daughter if she felt like she was missing out on something. Her reply was, “We never do stuff like that, why would I miss it?” She went on to add that the big meal did sound fun to eat.
Scott and I usually just get through this time of year. Last year was great because we were in Spain probably eating pigs’ ears and pinxos about this time and Thanksgiving passed with nary a flicker of discussion. I even gave in to Christmas dinner at our house because Scott wanted to use his grandmother’s china and it went just the way I thought it would. My Christmas day was consumed with cooking and cleaning and entertaining for the sake of a tradition that does not even feed my heart or soul. Let me be perfectly clear, I cherish my family and friends and I can eat with them any old day of the year, any food item, and the meal be just as meaningful.
So what about the tradition part? I may have had a breakthrough today during my exercise class when the instructor made a passing comment about Star Trek and then sheepishly apologized for being such a nerd. I couldn’t help it, I shouted out from the back row, “Star Trek is awesome!” And then with a laugh she admitted to having all kinds of Star Trek memorabilia and because of her obvious enthusiasm, the whole class was chuckling and smiling. I spent the rest of the time thinking of all of the Star Trek memories Scott and the kids and I have made over the years.
It started when Grant was nine and Ashley six and we began watching The Original Series together because Scott has always been a Trekkie. Over the years we have dressed up for our Christmas card as Star Trek characters, made a star trek cookie cutter and star trek cookies (above and complete with sprinkles) for the kids’ class projects. Scott taught high school math for a couple of years and showed his favorite Next Generation episode, The Inner Light, to his students at the end of each year. Star Trek gifts abound in our family and Scott is usually the recipient; his car sports the emblem and he has worn out numerous T shirts. We’ve played Star Trek trivia and tried to learn Klingon and quoted the best lines, especially Bones and Janeway quips, back and forth to each other. We cried when Spock died in Wrath of Kahn and we cried together when Leonard Nimoy passed away last year. Captain Kirk won’t be able to fix that one. We have watched the Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, and Enterprise and now we’re working on Deep Space Nine and looking forward to the new series out in 2017. The shows have always given us something to discuss and something to look forward to, a common interest and a quiet hour in our busy life.
I made it to the end my class and I hadn’t run out of beautiful memories of our Star Trek tradition, one that will feed my heart and soul for the rest of my life. Ironically, we even took the Star Trek movies to Kauai for one Thanksgiving break that I got my way. Those hours spent together watching the drama of the universe (or universes as discovered by Star Trek) unfold are jewels in the treasure box of my life and there is not one scrap of negativity surrounding them, not one feeling of expectation or disappointment and that is a damn fine tradition if you ask me. So Scott, my kids do have traditions, just not the ones most might enjoy. Furthermore, you know me, I’m all about compromise so how about we eat turkey sandwiches on your grandmother’s china the next time we watch Star Trek together?
So a quick little epilogue…I wrote this at least a month ago and in that time I have had time to reflect on my feelings and what I wrote. My blog is all about living with an attitude of adventure and variety and I am working to remember that every day and it’s not always easy, heck it’s rarely easy. Adventure can be found in embracing a new perspective for sure and I heard one when my best friend since childhood and I spent a weekend together. As our conversations wandered we talked about Thanksgiving. She loves Thanksgiving because for her it is a time to reflect on her grandparents and the good memories of her youth. She enjoys every moment of the day, making the special recipes that her Grandmas made and thinking about them all the while. She loves the smells and the memories and the traditions that she is giving her kids. Traditions are especially sacred to her as all of her kids are adopted and she feels strongly that traditions give them a common bond. She wants her kids to grow up and remember the food and the stories and the time of togetherness. It was good for me to hear that and a reminder that my perspective is only one and it can change.
Today is Thanksgiving and I have a whole cornucopia of feelings simmering that are as varied as a traditional, overzealous spread. I am sad that I haven’t talked to my brother, my nephew is struggling and that there are hungry, lonely or suffering people in my neighborhood, my town and the whole world. I know that there is war and sadness and sickness and yet the sun still rises and I am happy most days. It doesn’t make sense to me and I feel guilty for my fortune. I am so thankful to be with my family. They are healthy and reasonably happy and living their lives. Ashley is singing and making pumpkin pies from scratch, crust included. Ironically, she won’t even be able to eat turkey as new braces have reduced her food choices to mush but that doesn’t seem to matter to her. Grant asked who was coming for dinner and sounded disappointed when he learned it was just a small gathering. Scott is cooking dinner and I have been invited and asked to bring rolls. I am grateful for my family, friends, neighbors, cat, food on the table, comfortable bed, running water and the list goes on and on and on.
This morning I read an update about the twins in New York, Jadon and Anias, the once conjoined babies that were separated and are recovering ahead of schedule. Their parents are so thankful, thankful for all of the support and prayers and notes and doctors and nurses and their list goes on and on too. The parents spoke about focusing on the positive and having faith that the rest will work out. That kind of faith is truly inspiring and great advice for Thanksgiving and life…laser focus on the positive and faith that the rest will work out. I think I try to always balance things (how can I be happy while I know there is suffering?) when really I should work to tip my scale to positive in thoughts and actions because I can control those, at least I can try, and while I’m at it I’ll add a dash of openness to adventure and new perspective.