Happy Thanksgiving. I really mean it: Happy Thanksgiving. When I was little, it seemed a banal benediction. ‘Have a nice day’-ish. The truth is, I wasn’t too pro on Thanksgiving. Didn’t like the muted colors, the dreary weather, the icky food. I’ve never been a fan of turkeys and root vegetables. I could never make a decent pie. And the parade. Football. I could go on… Plus, I always detected a whiff of sanctimony coming off the Thanksgiving aficionados. The holiday’s not about anything as tawdry as consumerism, they like to remind you. (Never mind those Wal-Mart fisticuffs.) It’s not exclusionary, you know, like that showy cousin (sotto voce), Christmas.
Oh, Christmas. I can’t quit you. I will always love the aesthetics of Christmas. I love the Christmas message. Luke 2:14 just destroys me every time: Glory to God in the highest. Yeah, why not? Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. (Even better.) I love Christmas music, every bit of it, the sacred and the profane. I love Christmas cookies and the glittery wrapping paper and the store-bought ornaments. I love the anticipation. Advent. Christmas Eve. I love giving presents. My children, who are 6′ 2″, 5’10″, and 5’9″, respectively, still sleep under the Christmas tree every year, still waiting to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus. I love tearing through stockings on Christmas morning. I love snow and icicles and fires. I love Epiphany. I love the whole nine yards. I get super-ornery when Christmas-celebrating people tell me how much they hate Christmas. The commercials. The greed. The frenzy. (Well, does someone have a gun pointed to your head, saying, ‘drive me to the mall?’)
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. See, that was always the problem with Thanksgiving. I thought of it as a mere prelude to the real deal. I was secretly dismissive of Thanksgiving for such a long time. I hated the travel, hated putting in a full day of work on Wednesday, hated all the endless food prep and gluttony (the latter of which comes far too easily to me, even without holiday encouragement.)
But now? Well, I’ve taken a second look and I’m happy to say that Thanksgiving has really grown on me. It’s that simple. I’ve repented. As I get older, I’ve grown to appreciate every little kindness, every morsel of good intention, however contrived. I really welcome a formal opportunity to give thanks. It’s not that I’m so benighted, mind you. I just think even the happiest life can be pretty “gutting,” as the Brits say, and it’s important to acknowledge the good things in life. It’s important to show gratitude. Thank you, Thanksgiving!
I’ve just been up with the sunrise (which isn’t saying a lot in November in Northern New England. I think we’re talking about 7:09 a.m.). My Rhodesian Ridgeback-without-a ridge, Elsa, tested ice for the first time and, true to form, put one dainty toe on the surface and cautiously backed away. Rudy, the tiny Teuton, also true to form, hurled himself on this puzzling new medium and watched with subsequent confusion-then-horror as the cracking ice gave way to enveloping, frigid water. Possessing just a few wits — not enough to eschew rotting carcasses or deer droppings but enough, possibly, to aid in his self-preservation – I watched Rudy calculating the odds that his human ‘mother’ would do anything on his behalf other than curse him to eternity, and weighing said odds not dramatically in his favor, he quickly flailed/flopped himself on to dry land on his own steam. I could see the look of defeat on that little dachshundy countenance as he shlepped home, matted with ice and humiliation. He’s now resting at my feet, uncharacteristically cowed, in front of a warm fire. (And, yes, of course I would have fished him out of the water, are you kidding me? I am en-thralled, i.e. I AM A THRALL to my dogs. But the cursing-to-eternity part is true enough.)
But getting back to T-giving… I haven’t posted for a while… because my internet connection is slow in Vermont, because I’m lazy, because I’ve been nursing my husband through a particularly bad case of pneumonia, because I’m enjoying the chance to be unplugged. All of the above. But I wanted to give thanks to all my friends and family whom I love very much, especially my darling children and husband who are everything to me; and to all my students, present and former, who have taught me so much about life; to the people who challenge me, morally and intellectually; to the visitors to my blog and to TIME.com, who inspire me to wrestle with big ideas (and silly ideas) and to write as much as I can. I also want to give thanks for this beautiful place, Vermont, that has become home to me. So many good people here have helped us to settle in and to slow down. I’m thankful for nature (Thank you, Goddess Earth!). I’m thankful for warmth and food and shelter and all that stuff we take for granted until a hurricane strikes. Plus all the First World stuff I take even more shamefully for granted (pretending I live in the wilderness when I’m only 15 minutes from a Sunday New York Times and the King Arthur Flour bakery and the Dartmouth-Hitchock Emergency Room).
And let me add that I’m thankful for my stinky, slobbery, needy, dim-bulb dogs, too.