Like Chandler Bing, I learned my parents were splitting up on Thanksgiving. Over decades, I made a big deal of this and convinced myself to be miserable every year, no matter how many hours my hosts worked to create a festive occasion. It didn’t matter that my parents were much happier apart, that I had other opportunities I might never have had if they’d stayed together. It didn’t matter that I completely ignored other reasons why Thanksgiving is, oh, dicey. My loathing was one-dimensional.
Letting go of personal history tends to happen much later, but better that than not at all. What a burden to be miserable on an anniversary of something that happened a long time ago. Something you don’t think about all that much anymore.
To be honest, I really don’t hate Thanksgiving. There are the pumpkin products. What’s not to like about at least two days off from work? If you’re not traveling, you might be the luckiest person on earth. Rolls with butter on them. Such a massive pooling of foodstuffs for consumption with loved ones. The preparation may be frightening, but not for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have a black thumb in the kitchen. People invite me to their homes and they feed me. There are leftovers and stories for eons. It takes too much energy to hate things that are delicious and good.
My first Thanksgiving with Sam’s family in Florida is one I’ll never forget. It was my first time meeting some of Sam’s family members. Also, Florida was a mysterious place far removed from my New England/Mid-Atlantic roots. There is sun down there. You can see the sky without buildings blocking your view. The one hitch, we had to fly down to Florida and I was deathly afraid of getting on those aluminum tubes. Being in love means going places even when you’re scared. It took me days to get ready emotionally, even with medication. Oh, and my mother and stepfather were coming to meet Sam’s family. No anxiety there.
On the day of the trip, my stomach felt kinda funny. I pushed it aside. The Great Diviner in the Sky would never do that to me, make me sick as I go down for big Thanksgiving celebration with his family and my family, and did I mention low-grade terror about trying to have a baby at 42? I was fine, dammit.
When we landed, I experienced the usual terra firma euphoria and hunger. I ate whatever I could find. Steak! So far, I was killing this nerve-wracking Thanksgiving thing with new expanded family. And my mom, she was having fun in Florida. Oh the places we’d been together. I loved that she didn’t have to cook and could just party over three days. Everyone got along great. The next day, I had thick pancakes, a Starbucks sandwich, walked with Mom around town, marveling at the ducks in a pond, and then, oh no.
I was walking back to the hotel when I felt that dread of knowing I would be sitting in a dark room by myself for a day or two being sick. Time stopped, perspective shifted. People brought me ginger ale and crackers, medicine. No one shamed me for being sicker than I’d been in a while. I was so embarrassed before realizing that my healthy family was probably having a blast. That made all the difference, actually.
By the time Thanksgiving came, I felt a little better physically and utterly revived by the people around me. That was ten years ago and while still not 100% sold on this holiday (see U.S. history), I am so looking forward to being with my family, however it happens.
Here’s a picture of me on Thanksgiving 2012, kind of sick, but so grateful for the person next to me.