Thanksgiving was never my favorite holiday. I'm not sure why ... I just never got into the Pilgrims/Indians story. The Pilgrims always looked so dorky with their big collars and shoe-buckle hats, and the Indians always looked so cool ... and I regretted that I was, in appearance at least, more like the dorky-looking Pilgrims than any cool pathfinding, scalping, at-one-with-nature Indian.
(Note: I'm being politically incorrect and saying "Indian" rather than "Native American" because (1) I don't like the term "Native American," since they were here before it ever became "America," and (2) when I was a kid, I learned about "the Pilgrims and the Indians," and that's the context in which I'm relating this little memory.)
Anyway, I don't have a lot of specific memories of Thanksgivings past, beyond the usual Pilgrim-and-Indian art projects at school. My Thanksgiving memories all kind of run together with the Christmas Day ones, since we had practically the same menu for both.
I DO remember the Thanksgiving when my parents decided the family was going to Arkansas for the holiday and I had to give up my concert ticket to see U2 on November 26, or something like that. But that's another story.
I do have a specific good memory, though, and I think that's because it was a particularly memorable Thanksgiving.
(Sorry, there is no exciting story to follow.)
It was in the early 80s, and my Ain't Elaina ("Ain't" is how we say "Aunt" in south Louisiana) and Uncle Bubber (yes, that's what we call my mom's little brother) invited our family to spend Thanksgiving with them.
So we piled into the car and headed to Denham Springs for a Thanksgiving meal. The thought of seeing this particular part of the family at Thanksgiving was rather odd; usually, we only saw them on Christmas Eve, at my grandmother's apartment, and maybe, maybe one other time during the year. It's not that we didn't like them, or that we lived too far away to visit ... we just never saw each other much, particularly in comparision to how often we saw the folks on my dad's side of the family, who lived in our town.
So anyway, we all gathered in the little kitchen at their house on Perkins in Denham Springs: Mr. Hugh, Mrs. Gwen, Nent, Mu, me, Mom-D (my grandmother), Uncle Bubber, Ain't Elaina, and Cousins Gil, J, and Judi, along with Judi's then-boyfriend Richard the Curly-Haired. At least I think that was his name. She ended up marrying someone else several years later, so it doesn't really matter to this story.
Ain't Elaina made a wonderful meal, and we all sat crowded around the table, laughing and being silly (Uncle Bubber is one of the silliest people I know, in a good way). Then Uncle Bubber got serious. He said we were going to go around the table and say what we were most thankful to God for. Everyone groaned. But we did it anyway, because Uncle Bubber was serious (he can be really serious, in addition to really silly).
So we went around. I said I was thankful for my family and got misty-eyed when I realized how truly thankful I was for them. I just got that cool gettin-with-the-holiday-spirit feeling and felt overwhelmed with gratitude that I had been adopted into a family of such kind, loving, and silly people. And I felt so thankful that we were all there, sitting at a single table, being alternately silly and serious.
I don't remember what everyone else was thankful for, except that either Gil or J was thankful to be alive because he'd recently been in a motorcycle accident.
See, I told you it wasn't an interesting memory. But I remember it nonetheless, perhaps because, for once in my myopic, self-centered early adolescence, I stepped out of my head and realized that I was surrounded by loving, caring, silly-serious people, and understood how truly blessed I was.
Of course, I would forget those things from time to time as I went through the Sturm und Drang of high school, college, relationships, and depression, but I'm remembering them more and more now that I'm growing older. And, having gone through the death of three beloved grandparents and two much-loved uncles in my short life, I am so happy to have so many loved ones who are still alive, and whose friendship and love I can still enjoy.
So go hug your mama. Or call her. Do something to let the folks that you love know how important and appreciated they are. And realize they won't be around forever, so remember to make the most of having them here now. I'm always having to remind myself to do that, too, so believe me, I'm not trying to preach or be Oprah or Dr. Phil or anything. In fact, we haven't had many meals like that one Thanksgiving meal with Uncle Bubber and Ain't Elaina's side of the family in a long, long time. There are spouses and children and grandchildren now, and the little ones wouldn't even know me if they saw me.
End of Mushy Thanksgiving Eve Ramble. Thanks for reading. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, y'all. And I was serious about hugging your mama. Hug your ain't and uncle too, if they're nearby.
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