Are You Up For Thanksgiving?
Are you up for Thanksgiving? You may still not be sure what to do. There is travel, time off, expense, and let’s face it, taking that trip back home can be a hassle. Don’t hold back. Take that jump, and this year, be up for Thanksgiving.
Don’t bail or make excuses. Thanksgiving comes but once a year. Show up for it. You may not have the perfect family (who does?), but they’re counting on you. Be there for it. It may mean a long drive or plane trip, or they may be right across town: this is a day set aside for gathering. If you are lucky enough to have a family, gather with them. Tell them how much they mean to you and be grateful for them. You don’t know how long you, or they, will be here. Don’t chance it. Show up.
Good manners are always important, and on this day, especially. Put on some nice clothes. Show up on time. Bring a nice bottle, or bring several bottles, of something to drink. How about some flowers? Offer to bring a side dish or a pie, and then make good on it. Pass the peas, please, and tell your hostess how delicious the turkey is. Share some good conversation with whoever is seated next to you. Have some topics ready to discuss and don’t fall prey to participating in any debates. Steer clear of controversy or anything distasteful. Share something you are grateful for, or a happy family memory, and be the start of a warm feeling that glows around the table. Absolutely, truly, wonderful.
This is your chance to shine. Be that uncle your nephews can’t wait to wrestle with, the aunt who loves to color turkey hands, or that great guest who pitches in getting everything to the table. Roll up your sleeves and add your hands to the clean up. Your heroics will not go unnoticed. Whoever is hosting has been working for days to prepare what you just enjoyed. They are exhausted. Step up and help. You got this.
This is not a day to air grievances. Don’t whine about some injustice that was done to you a million years ago or allow yourself to be drawn into any sort of family feud. Look around that table and be thankful to be part of a family and grateful for everyone who’s there. Every year is more precious than the last.
That older person has a lot to say. Be a pair of willing ears. You may learn a thing or two, like a bit of family history you were unaware of, and there’s no way to find this out unless you sit up and pay attention. Everyone has something to share. Wrap your arms around it and hold it close in your heart. It may be the last story they tell.
We all lead busy lives. Yes, that travel is a hassle and that plane ticket is expensive. But show up for Thanksgiving. There are no do-overs. Make good on your intentions, because you may not get another chance. You may never know how much that meal matters to someone, and this Thanksgiving could be their last. So go big, and go home. Do it with all your heart.
My Dad’s menu, circa early November, 2000
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving of 2000, my dad was making notes about what he hoped, or expected, to be on the table. He had very clear ideas about what needed to be served at that all important meal, and was adamant that things be as they should. I talked to my dad every day while he was alive and I remember trying to veer him a bit, hoping I could get him to be okay with a new stuffing or some variation on the potatoes. He stood firm. Things needed to be as they always were. I did add a dish or two that year, but definitely did not change one item off the original menu that he requested.
My parents flew from Colorado to be with us for Thanksgiving. They were in the airport when my dad’s doctor called to let him know that he had cancer. It was a bittersweet holiday, the happiness of being together clouded by the bad news we had just received. But it was a great holiday. We ate and laughed, we decorated the tree, we talked about all of the Christmases and Thanksgivings we had, and we lamented parting ways again. My dad fiercely loved his family, his grandsons were his greatest joy, and it was no secret that they loved his company every bit as much.
My dad passed away on Easter Sunday of 2001, and that Thanksgiving he spent with us was his last. I was cleaning his office not long after he died and found this piece of paper sitting near the phone, away from all the other papers on his desk. I was stunned to see for the first time this list of his, the same one he had been reading to me with such intensity over the phone. Imagining him writing it made me cry, and there was something truly precious about its unadulterated honesty. I took it home and tucked it away, but pull it out every Thanksgiving and think about my dad. Treasure your family, and the time you have with them. Make this Thanksgiving the best one ever.