I had a conversation with a couple of coworkers today who pointed out some of the reasons so many of us truly enjoy Thanksgiving: food, football, and stretchy pants. It is a day when, after the flurry of food preparation is done, the entire expectation is to not do much of anything. How lovely.
As the big day approaches, I’ve determined there are really three key ways we prepare…things we must focus on before we become one with the couch in our ratty old yoga pants to snooze in front of family and tv:
- Great Aunt Helen’s Pearl Onion Recipe. Or Mom’s Famous Potatoes. Or Trendy New Roasted Brussel Sprouts. We all have very specific, even territorial, preferences about what must be prepared and served on the big day. Really, I’ve heard arguments arise where food feelings run rampant: “You’ve GOT to have Rhodes dinner rolls!” “What do you mean you don’t cook your turkey in a bag?” “No, no, no, it has to be the cranberry jelly that looks like the CAN.” And the best one: “But that’s not how mom did it.” Only we Americans could find a way to add stress to holiday food preparation. Take a deep breath. As sacrilegious as this sounds, it doesn’t really matter what you eat. I know, shocking. But true. Want pb&j? Go for it.
- Put the Fun in Dysfunctional. This is one of those holidays where family members who don’t normally spend a lot of time together get together to spend a lot of time together. We all have glorious images in our mind that our gatherings will look like a Norman Rockwell painting. Yet reality proves again and again that our Thanksgivings will bear a stronger resemblance to scenes out of Married with Children or Arrested Development. Rather than being disappointed that we aren’t all perfect, or worry about who is going to say what, I think we should just embrace our family and friend craziness. Get an assortment of relations together, strap on the feedbag, pour some alcohol, and let those sparks fly. I saw a great tweet today where someone said their plan was to settle in to a crowded table, ask “So what did you all think of the election?” then happily spend the rest of the meal alone in another room. No matter the wackiness, we all need to remember it is one day. For a matter of hours, let’s all just get along. Then call our BFF’s over the weekend to share stories.
- Do what you can. Any of you who have been following my blog for a while have read some of my rants about how much I dislike grocery shopping. Yet no matter how much I whine and complain, hate the process all the way from list-making to schlepping and putting away, I am thankful that I can do it. Because a frightening number of people out there don’t have that option. They don’t know when they will eat next, let alone have the option of going to a store to buy food. Luckily this time of year especially, most of us get the reminder that we need to donate food or funds to those in need. For the past several years, I’ve gotten my son involved in volunteer work at local Food Pantries. This year he is helping out at the grand-daddy of food collection events. The local Classic Rock radio station here hosts the Mayflower Marathon, where the goal is to fill three Tractor Trailer trucks with non-perishable food in 52 hours to benefit the local Open Pantry. It is quite the sight and a great community event. Yet we need to keep in mind that those in need aren’t just hungry during the holidays. There are just as many folks struggling in July as there are in November. So if you are like me, and some time soon you will be grumbling about the First World problem of having to go back to the store because you forgot to pick up peanut butter, try to stop being grocery-cranky long enough to grab a little something extra for someone else. It is an amazing mood-booster.
The count down has begun. Those traveling have packed their bags and gotten on the road. Those who are hosting have stuffed their fridges and dug out their recipes and planned what gets cooked when. Everyone has their stretchy pants at the ready. And hopefully everyone will find a place to get a warm meal.
Eat. Talk. Laze around. Enjoy.
But most of all, be thankful and be kind. Which is easy to do with a full belly.