As I sat with neighbors on Halloween night, waiting for trick-or-treaters to come up to the porch, a woman asked which holiday is my favorite. Before I could answer she said that hers was Halloween, because she loved to see little children walking around the neighborhood dressed in costumes. Ironically, we didn’t have many this year, and when kids did come to the porch it felt more like a play date with their parents standing nearby.
The neighbor got around to asking me again and, when I hesitated, offered Christmas, which for most of us is a given. But then she dismissed it as too commercial, which, at this point in the life of the republic, is like complaining that water is wet, but I suppose you have to consider which Christmas you’re talking about: Macy’s Christmas in which we are exhorted to “believe,” whatever that means, and the one for the rest of us, still based on a religious foundation, although less and less so.
I don’t know why, but Armistice Day flashed through my mind, which we celebrated last week as Veterans’ Day. But then I actually answered the Fourth of July, which I like to refer to as Independence Day, mainly because it’s not called that as much anymore unless it’s used to sell discount furniture, but also to see people’s reactions. More often than not they will correct me and call it “the Fourth,” which satisfies no one and reminds me of those Cadillacs in the 80s with their trunks lopped off.
Regarding “the Fourth,” (don’t read any sort of ideological message here), I have come to the realization that had I been living in the Colonies in the 1770s, I might have sided with the British and not just because of their superior uniforms. I mean, how do you beat a red coat with gold epaulettes? Suffice it to say that I believe political persuasion derives directly from personality, and I’m just not the kind of guy to throw sacks of perfectly good tea overboard into the harbor. And I don’t even drink tea. Of course, had I been living in Paris in 1789, I would have been among the first to be guillotined. I acknowledge that sad fact.
What I didn’t tell my neighbor and what I have not understood until now is that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why is this? Again, I believe it has to do with personality. For me, Thanksgiving is the only major holiday where I don’t have to go anywhere, including the Macy’s parade, which I will never do again (cf “Blonde Hair and Ponytails”). On most other holidays, I usually go to a church or cemetery or crowded state park. But on Thanksgiving I can sleep in and show up fashionably late to dinner wearing a pumpkin-colored, silk, paisley tie. In California you can even wear it with matching shorts and sneakers.
…maybe next year we’ll get as many thanks as we give.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate being out and about, but, like a restive schoolboy, I would rather not have to do anything or meet anyone once I get there. That’s not being antisocial. I am simply in tune with that most wonderful law of thermodynamics about the conservation of energy. And the older I get, the more I need to conserve. In addition, I have developed near-zero tolerance for verbiage in all its forms (see Enough Said), which puts me at a disadvantage in social situations. Sometimes when I have been cornered into a conversation from hell I imagine swinging at the end of a hangman’s rope à la Bud Cort in Harold and Maude.
But there’s more to Thanksgiving than that. Sure, it’s got turkey and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, but there’s no other holiday that touches on family relationships with such intensity. That can be good or bad, healing or horrible. I’ve been through my share of Thanksgiving holidays that are better left forgotten. But gathering around the table and giving thanks for those things and people who make a difference in our lives can change us. It can move us to act with courage, forgiveness, or whatever it is that we’re lacking. If we do, who knows? Maybe next year we’ll get as many thanks as we give.
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