This year I have a double Thanksgiving planned — one traditional, and one entirely new.
I’m driving north Wednesday morning to help with prep for the hordes of family that will arrive Thursday. Thanksgiving is our holiday to host, and if I know my parents, my mom has already entered “the cleaning zone” while my dad is still pondering last-minute home improvement projects he won’t actually start until an hour or so before guests start to arrive. (Only joking, Dad.) (Mostly…) The kitchen will be a mini-tornado of high stress and buttered potatoes, and my siblings and I will keep circling back to Mom for marching orders until family starts to arrive and we escape to play carpetball with the cousins or brew coffee for Grandma.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions fits into the 20-second speech my dad gives just before the meal. It’s not even the prayer — my grandpa will bless the meal right after. My dad gathers everyone’s attention, announces the food is ready and invites my grandpa to pray, after which, my dad says, my mom will “do what she does best — tell us what to do.”
My mom hits his arm, everyone laughs, my grandpa prays, and then my mom actually does tell us what to do — which way the buffet line will travel around the kitchen island, which dishes are spicy, where to find the drinks. Once she says “go,” the only thing that matters is the (rapidly shrinking) distance between each of us and the pumpkin pie.
I look forward to that annual gibe-and-response every year, and I’m not really sure why. It’s a symbol of things staying the same, certainly — my dad still mocks my mom for her type-A organizational habits and then hands the reins over to her; my mom still rises to the bait and then laughs along. Maybe I respond to the community aspect of it — a personal joke made semi-public, a kind of proof that my parents trust the people filling the room, a way of loosening the instinctive stiffness between people who only see each other a few times a year. Maybe it’s just the tradition — the fact that, planned or unplanned, the same joke happens every year.
But this year I have a second Thanksgiving. On Friday, I’ll hop on a plane to California, where I’ll celebrate again with a few of my closest friends.
I’ve never been to the west coast before. (I anticipate warmer temperatures and a higher concentration of extroverts.) My California friend is in a happy planning frenzy, and we’ve left the details up to her. (I swear she even mentioned something about riding elephants, which sounds like more of a lofty dream than a reality, but I am tentatively raising my hopes … who doesn’t love an elephant?) Honestly, I’m excited simply to see my friends again — letters and texts and Skype don’t always cut it. We built these friendships over 2 a.m. cups of tea and half-successfully smothered laughter in libraries, shared weirdnesses and unintentional vulnerability. I’m eager to see them (elephants or no).
But instead of two Thanksgivings, it feels a bit like I’m splitting one, neither holiday quite adding up to a whole. A shortened weekend with my family — will there be time for guitar-playing and leftovers? And a few days with college friends is not enough to fit in all the words and silences we need to share. It seems like every time you love someone, however poorly, a tiny thread connects you to them, and having that thread stretched tight hurts. I didn’t mean for most of those threads to be tied — usually I don’t notice them until after the fact, you know? I’ve already discovered a few here in Worthington.
People don’t exist in a vacuum, and while some seem to easily balance the space/time continuum as it pertains to relationships, I’ve never been good at the act. It’s forced me to be more intentional with the places I invest my time and energy, to work harder at communication and honesty.
But I guess that’s what I’m thankful for, this year — the people I’m tied to, old and new. Despite my own limitations, they’ve stuck around and been willing to work with phone calls, 160-character limits and half-holidays, because every minute counts. I’m so excited to take part in my family’s time-honored traditions this year — and I look forward to a few new adventures, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!