As we encroach on our day to give thanks, I can’t help but feel that the one holiday that asks so little from everyone gets the short end of the (drum)stick. Thanksgiving is the middle child between two exuberant personalities. It’s the five-minute placeholder between two lavish, sparkly neighbors. They’re the envied ones with the lights, mystery, and a plethora of parties that lead up to the big day. Volumes of books mark the meaning and document the excitement behind two well-heeled holidays whose stories are told and re-told in countless fashion. Everyone gets caught up in the shivering excitement that begins a half-year before the actual day. Cue the Halloween costumes and Christmas party attire and everything else just blends into the carpet. Admittedly no one is rushing to get the ‘perfect Thanksgiving outfit’.
The little angels and I walked into CVS the other day and Christmas had thrown up in the store. It had been easing its way in for months. There were more Santas, reindeer, ornaments, striped socks, dog and cat outfits, and mountains of chocolate than even in large department stores. Aisle upon aisle was burgeoning with all things Christmas. Child-sized mechanical carolers held buckets of what else? Stocking stuffers! Then, like the little kid in the back of the lunch line, quiet and unobtrusive amongst overbearing playmates, there was a mere handful of items dangling from metal hangers featuring a few wooden turkeys and caricatures of smiling pilgrims in varied shades of brown. Ah, so easy to ignore among the deafening sounds of singing Santas, Elvises, and Nutcrackers. Not once did either of my children scream, “Mommy, please oh please can we get that really cool rocking pilgrim and hang it on the door?”
This past July in North Carolina, my girls and I were red-faced, dripping with sweat and drinking our ice cream in 100% heat and humidity. We walked by a cotton warehouse-turned-retail oasis with the words “Air-conditioned” beaming through the hot haze. Cool air poured onto us and scents of cinnamon danced in the air. We stumbled in as if cement blocks were tied to our flip-flops. There before us amidst tourist traps filled with tacky t-shirts and flavored pecans was “Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe” complete with holiday music, a dozen or so lit trees and walls of ornaments and wreaths made out of driftwood and seashells. With sticky fingers and bright eyes my little angels were entranced, speechless. Yep, here we were. Christmas in July. No amount of coaxing could pull them away from the eye candy before them (and ice cream was no longer an option). People were actually shopping because time was a-tickin’. The big day was only five months away. I still can’t get my head around seeing year round Christmas stores, even having them make frequent appearances in my southern upbringing. I refuse to buy a winter coat in the summer and certainly refuse to buy a bathing suit in December. I am horrified by the push of the retail industry speeding up our lives and forcing us to think that we must get it now! Or else someone else will! God forbid.
I miss my Southern Thanksgiving with tables of rainbow colored jell-o salads, deep-fried turkeys, a mega variety of stuffing, pies galore, and real buttermilk biscuits (the sweetened iced tea I can do without). I miss the long tables atop my aunt’s deck that overlook the waterway filled with four generations of relatives. I miss watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the football games, even though I could care less who played. Thanksgiving to me was always more than a placeholder. It was when everyone made it to the table. You could always count on it. Christmas is when families disburse.
Be thankful for your dysfunctional family, for wine, that your friends still like you, and that there are leftovers. Be thankful for this ‘bump in the road’ called Thanksgiving so that you can slow down before attacking shopping malls for needless items and overspending. Be thankful for new beginnings and remember to give this shy holiday the attention it deserves. Happy Thanksgiving!
Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. — Benjamin Franklin