I don’t have to work today, but I still get paid. What a great thing.

What Thanksgiving means to me is vague, at best. My earliest memories of the day having any significance are disjointed images of the infamous doll house I played with; making tiny yams and green beans out of Sculpy while unidentifyable relatives alternately bustled and squawked or sat stoic and unmoving around me. The thick wooden table taking up most of the space in the dining room, so you had to sidle around it while chairs squeaked in and out on the floorboards.

As I got older and my family’s relationships waxed and waned, the holiday becomes more vivid, not associated with quick sensory flashes as much. Easy factual input and retention is replaced with vague but unmistakable anxiety: Reticence at having to communicate with aunts and cousins I saw only a few times a year; Intense adolescent awkwardness and self-doubt, coupled with impatience and frustration towards the aunts and cousins and grandparents and other strangers. Long before being diagnosed with Major Depression (recurrent!) the signifiers were there: displacement; the horror of being transported, suddenly, to a place where I was expected (by whom?) to be successful and smart (I was) and engaging (I wasn’t).

For better or worse, the waxing and waning has culminated in a holiday that involves only me and my parents, the meals always reliably sumptuous, assembled still around the thick wooden table (which, by now, has survived myriad moves and rearrangements and decades of paper piles and gift wrappings and quite possibly various temper tantrums).

But beyond the family history, I don’t associate today with much. I try to be thankful every day I’m alive; grateful to be out under the sky on planet Earth, able still to be irritated by TV commercials and poor grammar and ubiquitous white cat hairs. Today I’ll be thankful for Mom’s cooking and to come home to a cottage of books and a glass of whiskey after. And tomorrow? I can only hope.

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