It’s fascinating how our Thanks You’s transform over time.
In childhood I was mostly thankful for having more than my brother to play with as we gathered at Granny Erwin’s house. Back in those days–the days of large family gatherings–we’d bring picnic tables into the living room so that we could all partake in the merriment of family. The protruding bellies of my uncles, gossiping-voices of my aunts, and little cousin tattle-telling threats; this was Thanksgiving as I knew it. Once Aunt Debbie–our beautician–cleaned her scissors and shears from the last haircut of the day, Thanksgiving had come to its end. I was thankful for the following: Dear Santa Letters we read from the local newspaper in hopes of seeing ours published, the end of Uncle Thed and Puff’s tickling torture, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, The Macy’s Day Parade, Aunt Glenda’s delightful full-bellied laugh, an Aunt LuLu and Uncle Darry Lee sighting, being in a family that danced, Crystal telling me about boys, Joe and Red shooting slingshots and my finding the best rock to shoot at the barn versus listening to Crystal’s boy-crazed stories, Bubba and Donnie sneaking into the tool shed, and my nuclear family.
High school was tricky as family units began to separate and splinter off into several small siloed Thanksgiving gatherings. There wasn’t a headquarters any more, but rather several remote ones in which transformed the holiday into a chore. There were new faces without the history or tradition in which defined family to me. Bubba and I spent time with new families, outsiders looking in from the window, missing what Thanksgiving used to be. Maybe we would get to see the characters of our family if our visit corresponded with their schedule, otherwise we would try to see them on Christmas. I was thankful for the following: no more bickering, having a buddy like my brother to experience days like these with, our new baby brother Blake, my birthday so I could choose my own guest list, and the silence and alienation that allowed me to cherish memories and learn how to be alone.
College, I went where I wanted and I always went back home. I was searching for myself, but mostly I was hoping to find the characters of my family again. People had moved on; cousins married, loved ones died, slingshots were passé, picnic tables remained outside, gossiping sounded more faint, we were less enthused with newspapers and Santa, everyone was doing Weight Watchers, and Aunt Debbie forgot her scissors and sheers. I was thankful for the following: being home, newspaper smudges on my fingers, eating despite being broke, playing with my cousin’s children, being too old for tickle torture, that CD that turned into family dancing, divorce allowing happiness, for not having to eat smaller portions, not having to tell Aunt Debbie I needed a more complex type of haircut, not being married, and the remembrance of those we lost along the way.
Today, I have to decide between Thanksgiving or Christmas, the latter always wins going home. My family has extended into its own social network and text messaging allows me to tell all these characters how thankful I am they are in my life or have passed through it. Newspapers are electronic as to prevent smudging, gossiping is viral, tummy tucks replaced dieting, Aunt Debbie is retired so no haircuts rendered, my cousins have divorced and remarried, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton have had so much plastic surgery their faces don’t move, I’m not sure slingshots are even sold any more but Crystal is still boy crazy, new faces are no longer intimidating, and I’m okay with Thanksgiving this way. I’ll dance on Christmas, but the Macy’s Day Parade is on in all our homes.