Too lofty a title?
I just want to talk about how Thanksgiving went for us this year. And, curious how it went for you.
One aspect I imagine we all share: this Thanksgiving, 2020, was different from any we’ve had before. But how, what did we miss the most? This might vary a bit. Here’s my story.
Thanksgiving this year would be our sponsee “Jeff’s” first American Thanksgiving. (Don’t recall “Jeff?” You first met him HERE in October.) I recalled how eagerly my colleagues in Kazakhstan wanted to share their culture and customs with us when we lived there; I wanted to offer “Jeff” the same.
I loved doing it. I loved spreading my fall decorations around the house. I loved cooking. I even loved making the gravy. The turkey legs we roasted instead of a full turkey didn’t give off the needed fat for the gravy, and I was tickled to remembered I’d frozen last month’s goose fat in little muffin size portions.
Since moving to Vermont — too far for my two Ohio-based sons to join us here in the woods (and over the river) for a weekend — Woody, my mom, and I (and Sasha too) have generally gone west. At son Jon’s house, we are usually joined by my other son, their extended families (and dogs), a few neighbors, and my sons’ father and his wife: twelve to fifteen adults plus assorted children.
We eat the standard fare, learn something new, try to come up with an entertaining “gratitude” as we go around the table, and play “bite the bag” at day’s end. In between, I spar a bit (good naturedly, I believe) with the former spouse.
We eat too much; we smile a lot; we strive to stay civil; we appear interested even when we are not. And, though we look forward to doing it all again in a year, we are also grateful Thanksgiving does not come more often, even though it’s my favorite holiday.
This year, I know exactly what I missed the most. Something I’d taken for granted, too.
Why is it we miss most those things we’ve never really appreciated until they are gone?
I liked making the various side dishes too and am grateful to those of you who submitted recipes. “How Thanksgivingee,” says Woody.
Here in Vermont, we four gathered together, separated by eight to ten feet and, because we’d taken off our masks (how else to eat?), we ate in silence. We had to. CoVid travels on air particles, and talking propels them out more urgently. It’s even worse if we sing.
Why such precautions, you might ask?
Our sponsee “Jeff” works in one of those “anti-mask” cultures that we’ve decided will not change. So, though he wears a mask at work all day (the only one to do so), we must treat him as though he’s an asymptomatic positive case. I imagine it’s as hard on him as it is on us, though he wouldn’t complain even if he wanted to, which I don’t believe he does though I sometimes wish he would.
“Jeff” lives his life in a kind of limbo at the moment. He knows it’ll be another two years until we’ll know what his future holds. (Have I written about the scandalous backlog of the immigration courts? I should.)
Though, as I write this, I wonder if that’s not something each of us could say, if we got down to it. I mean, really, who among us knows what the future holds for us? We don’t. That’s what makes investing in the stock market or buying insurance so difficult. And long term health insurance? Don’t get me started! But I digress.
Back to Thanksgiving
We set the food out like a buffet — a very short buffet — Woody sang a Jewish prayer, we sat down at our respective tables with our plates, and removed our masks.
The silence that permeated the room colored everything else for me. Even the Sirius XM background music could not fill the void I felt.
I missed conversation. I don’t mean I missed scintillating conversation, much harder to find than I once realized. I missed just plain old conversation, the background hum, and the choice (I never realized I had) to join in or not.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “must-fill-up-the-silence” sort of person. I enjoy eating my breakfast in actual silence (no music either) each morning. And, I don’t mind eating alone in a restaurant (pre-CoVid, of course) or at home. I often welcome silence. But Thanksgiving, I began to realize, is also about chatter, catching up, communicating. I love the hum in the room that comes when there are many conversations going at one time. And this year I missed that hum.
I miss hugging too; I’ve written about that before. I miss shaking hands when an agreement has just been reached, like when we renegotiated our car lease this past week. But not being able to hug or shake hands is a momentary gut punch. This silence at the table lasted, well, as long as it takes to eat a Thanksgiving Day dinner. How long did yours take this year?
Thanksgiving, I realized for the first time, is as much about the conversation, the camaraderie, the catching-up, the communication, and yes, the chaos, as it is about the food. And this year, we had no conversation, no catching-up, no chaos. And no after dinner games.
All I could think of was, “Wait until next year. I will show you a real Thanksgiving.”
How about you? How was your Thanksgiving? What did you miss the most?