Thanksgiving. One of the most American holidays ever, complete with underlying values and heavy with tradition. A day to celebrate all we have and to share a meal with family and friends. A day that nearly everyone cooks, apparently. A day that is synonymous with family and food and relaxation.

 

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day is full of the best parts of each of those things: that the traditions you follow bring joy, that the thankfulness you express today is a gratitude that is lived most days, and that the food you prepare is truly enjoyed.

I realized yesterday that we have no traditions for this holiday as it isn’t one we have often celebrated. Most Thanksgiving days in our lives have been spent as regular work days, with maybe a few moments set aside to read about the celebrations going on in the USA or Canada, as the case may be.

Still, as long as I can remember I’ve seen beautiful photos of a loaded Thanksgiving table with a large family gathered. I have a mental picture of what Thanksgiving could or should be, and I’ve tried hard to recreate it sometimes. The perfect turkey with delicious stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato something, and pumpkin pie with coffee to finish it off. This amazing meal followed by a time of sharing gratitude for the people around the table and the things we enjoy.

No matter how hard I try, the experience simply doesn’t meet my expectations. Usually by the time the food is on the table there have been frustrations that make me harried. We cut into a turkey that isn’t perfect, nobody really enjoys cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie isn’t a family favorite. Thanksgiving feels forced and my sons mumbled thanks feel like a reflection on my poor parenting. So, for all my effort, it’s empty. Disappointing. Discouraging.

I still hold to the thought that for many people, the pictures in their mind of a Thanksgiving celebration are based on a reality that has grown over their years of childhood and into the present. What they expect is maybe much closer to what they get. And for them, the effort they spend on Thanksgiving creates a reality that connects them to one another and to the past and their heritage. For the rest of us, it’s a different story.

This year as we celebrate Thanksgiving in the USA, I am trying to carve a new path based on reality and our history. As I ponder the things that I am truly thankful for, they are people and experiences. The people who have helped us grow and the ones we’ve been privileged to help. Our family who lives scattered by calls that are unique ┬ábut hearts that are similar. The people we have served and the ones who have served us. ┬áThe people who have prayed with us and cried with us. The places we’ve lived and the ones we’ve visited. The cultures we’ve experienced that have changed our biases and taught us new things. The places that felt like home when we arrived and the ones that became home only by a force of will. The teams that welcomed us and the ones we tried so hard to join. These are the things that make our history and define us as a family, and today I am celebrating each one of them.

In fact, in the process of blogging I’ve come up with next year’s menu: Rice, carne mechada, black beans, chipa, and a side of pancit. Leche flan with a cup of cafe con leche for dessert while we remember and give thanks.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with thanksgiving.