Thanksgiving joy and sorrow

Wild turkeys escaping the Thanksgiving table. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

The celebration of Thanksgiving has always been ripe with controversy.

I don’t need to write about its origin, colonialism or genocide. (We know it. It’s all there.) Instead, I am reminded of the Thanksgiving Day rules.  

I won’t list them since they must vary from family to family. Nothing makes choking down Ambrosia less palatable (Is that even possible?) than the Thanksgiving Day rules. I don’t understand if you say you don’t have any off-limit topics. That free-for-all scenario has the making of an emotional multi-car collision. So, with rules loosely defined, I remain thankful for the possibility of eating a peaceful meal. 

I never care about the menu. I want to be surrounded by family and friends. I can make dinner, order dinner or eat out. I can be the hostess or the guest. I want to forget all the problems and focus on what is good. 

I look forward to the lively discourse and the chance to pretend to watch football while reflecting on the past year. This food-driven holiday has always been a balance between joy and sorrow. No matter if the gathering is large or small,  there are always losses and gains. It is a matter of being able to acknowledge both. Being thankful is a start, but being compassionate is a must.

If you are sitting around enjoying your family’s idiosyncrasies without any issues, I feel your head is hiding in the cheese dip. I don’t mean that condescendingly. I’ve buried enough feelings and opinions at the cheese board. Years ago, I was invited to eat with a friend’s family. I asked her uncle where his wife was, not knowing she had left him for his best friend. I started an avalanche of Thanksgiving emotions. 

If you think you are at a table of drama-free individuals, I urge you to consider easing into controversy with a benign topic like “Should raisins be cooked in food?” FYI, the answer is always no. I have hundreds of other issues to help step up the holiday arguing stage without touching on “hot-button topics.” This way, if someone sticks their foot in their mouth (me), it can be drowned out by all the other debates.

My children always found the Thanksgiving table is the place to learn negotiation and limitations. It was the place to put away the petty and bring out the pleasantries. Even from the children’s table, kids learn the art of compromise, whether fighting for leftovers or overeating. They pretend to use good manners, and I let them. Perhaps Thanksgiving has to have some drama for anyone to be thankful for peace. 

Suppose you are one of the rare families that always gets along. I salute you. Whenever we have anything to be thankful for, we share our good fortune with those less fortunate. If we are struggling, we search for ways to receive help. The only main Thanksgiving Day course is always neighbors helping neighbors and community helping the community. If you are coming from a place of joy or sorrow, I hope you find a way to a Happy Thanksgiving.


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