Recently it seems it’s difficult to mention Thanksgiving without an outcry against the holiday’s unsavory roots. Social media has helped point out major flaws in the elementary textbook history that most of us learned about the supposed “first thanksgiving.” Turns out it was not a friendly feast between natives and newcomers; a supposed joining of two cultures. Because of this, many feel it’s an odd holiday to celebrate – and rightfully so. But who really celebrates Thanksgiving as we know it because of what pilgrims did or didn’t do years ago? Sure, I may have a picture somewhere of childhood-me with in a little sailor-style dress with a construction paper pilgrim hat adorning my 90’s hair, but that’s really not what it’s all about. (Though I was darn cute.)
Actually, Thanksgiving seems to be one of those cultural things that is difficult to put into words. I find it difficult to explain Thanksgiving well to my English friends –
“We gather around, give thanks, and eat. Then rest for a bit, talk, hang out, and eat more. Because we’re thankful. Oh, and some people watch football. Or parades.”
Because it’s nice? And we get good food? And good company? And we would get fat if we ate all that food on our own?
But… temporarily setting the controversy and Thanksgiving’s sad roots aside, the modern celebration of it – the pausing to show thankfulness and gratitude (don’t even get me started on how this goes out the window the next day. ugh.) – is something I just love. While the world is a difficult place, and horrible things happen every day, most of us have at least a few things to be thankful for. Many of us have so much more than that .
Here are a few things I’m thankful for today.
First of all, for healing. Two years ago I just made a tiny mini-Thanksgiving dinner for us and some visiting family. Because I was recovering from an extremely painful surgery to repair my pectus excavatum, I couldn’t even stoop to lift the turkey in and out of the oven. I couldn’t help with the dishes afterward (oh darn), or go for a much-needed long walk to walk off the turkey-induced stupor. It was a time of waiting. Of resting and recovery. Of growing pains. Before the surgery I often wondered (and worried) if I’d be able to have a healthy pregnancy and support a baby full term because of my condition. But then at this time last year at this time, I had just had my bar removal surgery a few months before and we had just found out we were expecting a baby! Now, here we are a year later, a thriving family of three, and we feel so incredibly blessed. Looking at his little grin is a reminder of God’s perfect love for us all, and his plan of healing and recovery in my own life.
Secondly, for community. When living away from home, holidays are bittersweet. You yearn to be with family, to experience those traditions you grew up with. To vie for a spot in the front of the food line (yes, we’re all about the potluck buffets in my family) before the rest of your family towers their plates up. To rub shoulders and catch up with your cousins over a slice of pumpkin roll. But, we’ve been so blessed by the community we’ve found over here and it makes holidays rich again. Our church has become our home away from home. We’ve been so thankful for the relationships we’ve made over here and my heart felt so full when I looked around on Thanksgiving and saw a table full of people to be Thankful for. And this year for Thanksgiving we had the best problem ever – we didn’t have enough room around our table to invite all those we wanted to! How blessed are we, that we had more friends than seats available?!
Finally, I am thankful for memories. I have so many rich memories of Thanksgiving. Today I remember fondly my MeMe and Papaw, two of the best people that ever graced this earth. A few years for Thanksgiving we would pack up and drive to their cabin in the mountains of Virginia. They lovingly built that cabin themselves. It was bare bones, nothing luxurious, but I loved that place. I’m positive the mountain water from the cabin’s kitchen tap, icy cold in a metal mug, is the most refreshing drink in the world. I can still remember the taste, almost 20 years later. Upstairs in the loft were twin beds in rows, heaped with my MeMe’s homemade quilts and hand-stenciled pillow cases. The loft was warm and stale (like a large linen closet) and the sounds of the cabin echoed off of the low ceiling. Up in the loft my cousins and I could hear every creaky floor board, each mid-night toilet flush, and the symphony of snores from the adults below. My movie of memories from that cabin includes sitting on Papaw’s lap in the recliner as he told stories, watching MeMe throw on her blaze orange vest and ball cap to go for a walk in the woods, driving to Dollar General in town to use the payphone or pick up essentials like cheap craft supplies. We dined on buttery biscuits made from scratch, and played games of canasta over scraped-clean dinner plates. No television, no phone, no internet, no timelines, no hurry, no interruptions. I am so thankful for those memories with MeMe and Papaw and the rest of my family. And thankful for the legacy they left.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with memories in the making as well as those wonderful warm-fuzzies from thinking back on holidays past. After all, that’s what this holiday is all about.