I tend to forget, in the hustle-bustle thing called life, about the meaning and importance of days designated to reflect and honor and observe. Somehow in my mind they became merely holidays, which is easy to think of as another word for “day off work, ” and their meanings become boiled down to what I can do with my spare time. Whether or not the shopping malls are open and for how long, whether or not the family gets together and in what city, whether or not we get mail or can go to the bank.
Just how much of my life are they going to disrupt or enhance?
Next week is a big one — Thanksgiving. Everything shuts down for the day, which means this is a serious holiday. I’ll head out on a plane to Iowa on Thursday with my partner, where we’ll gather with my family and eat lots of stuff, I suppose. I’ll have the annual twinges of desire for a bite (or two, or three…) of turkey, which have abated but not vanished in my nearly eight years of vegetarianism, and maybe there will be a discussion about the convenience and taste of boxed mashed potatoes vs. the real thing.
In my family, though, we don’t do a lot of formal reflection on the meaning behind Thanksgiving. I don’t mean the history of the holiday, all that stuff about the pilgrims and the Native Americans that school children learn about and later learn to question. I’m talking about the literal meaning of the name of the holiday — giving thanks, taking a moment to reflect on what matters in life.
I’m realizing I should be doing more of that, giving thanks, not just on the last Thursday in November of each year, but every day. During the past couple of weeks I’ve been acutely aware of how grateful I am to have a close relationship with my mother, after my partner Kim and I sat through the wake and funeral of her father’s close friend Ed.
I found myself trying to fathom what it was like for Ed’s son and daughter, and what it was like for Kim when she lost her mother. Or what it was like for my best friend, Lyn, when her mother died a few years ago. Or for our close friend Chris, whose mother died in 1994.
My mom and I talk and talk on the phone; it’s sort of a joke
among people who’ve had to suffer through waiting for me to get off the phone with her. About 45 minutes into the conversation one of us will say she needs to go, and we’ll say the I love yous, and then one of us will bring up something else. Twenty minutes later we’re saying the I love yous again. Another half an hour might pass before the phone actually leaves my ear. It’s the object of friendly ridicule and eye rolling, but we wouldn’t have it any other way (nor would our long distance carriers).
I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot not just because Ed’s death brought up parental mortality issues for me. She’s been sick for a few weeks now with an elusive virus or infection or something — they don’t know yet. Today she thinks it’s Lyme disease, but that’s just an Internet diagnosis. Her doctors have run test after test and taken X-rays and drawn buckets of blood and they’re not sure yet what’s wrong. Her friend, we’ll call him D. because he’s still in the closet, is the walking stereotype of a small town gay man — queeny, hilarious, bitingly sarcastic, irreverent — and he quipped last week that she’d be dead by Thanksgiving.
Not funny, D.
So I’ll be happy and grateful to see my mother next Thursday (proving D. wrong), and grateful to see my brother and his wife, who welcome Kim and me into their home in Iowa and who let me spoil their 10-month-old baby rotten. I’m a sucker for babies and little kids, so she’s a big part of my personal Thanksgiving this year. I’m thankful to have the resources to have traveled to Iowa to see that baby, Cassie, four times so far since she was born — to be able to hear her laugh and see her smile and watch her get food all over her face when she eats.
I also find myself feeling especially lucky that Kim’s family is supportive of us, and that her sister does things like call us up on our anniversary to try to get Carney, our 2-year-old niece, to wish us well. Of course a 2-year-old has no idea what an anniversary is, but Carney will grow up knowing and not caring one bit that her Aunts Kim and Kris have the same kind of relationship that her heterosexual aunts and uncles have.
In a similar vein, my good friend Shalar, whose sons Spencer and Harrison know “Krisandkim ” as a one-word unit, walked Spencer down the aisle when he served as our ring-bearer at our commitment ceremony two years ago. She told me recently that she feels lucky that her boys know us — as if we’re the heroic ones!
My Thanksgiving revolves around the theme of people — the family and friends who love me and support me, and the children some of them are raising, who give me hope for the future. Forget about the turkey and gravy — I’m full of love and gratitude.
Kristina Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She writes biweekly for MW, and she will not eat the turkey. She will not eat the turkey. She will not eat the turkeyÂ…