Americans seem, generally, to have a hard time with official holidays, as though the added pressure of suspending their daily living patterns tips the population into a crowdsourced demand for succor in the form of either consumption or mining family tensions. In my dotage (!), I’m pretty content with playing Thanksgiving as a necessary reminder to pause and simply feel gratitude; no need to go feast it, cheer its football teams, oggle floats and store displays, or make haste to exit the kitchen before the relative who likes to not like me enters it.
For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving has marked a special and grateful moment in my personal life, for it was on this day that I determined myself to be, in fact, pregnant with someone who has turned out to be purty darn wonderful. But that’s personal, not a blanket experience for society around me, even my own best buddies. They have, each and every one of them, something or another just as personal, and just as gratitude-evoking, from their own years. And some of them are cranky enough to want to bypass that reminder to just pause and remember a moment of lived joy or grace or even bliss.
Which gets to the nub of pausing to feel grateful: I’m not thanking some entity out there or even my various and assorted continent exploiting ancestors, or the ones who, Johnny Come Latelies, managed to find a place of safe harbor. Those happenstances are readily mineable for all their cultural implications of greed, luck, and bad actions taken in the name of a fantasy called by various names for a deity.
And I’m certainly feeling no thanks at all, in a “there but for the grace of luck” way, for being in a safer, healthier place than friends and strangers both who live the fallout of American racism and solipcism and a bunch of other pernicious -isms that barely poke at the surface of what they are up against to simply maintain, let alone enjoy dominant culture’s smugness.
Feeling gratitude, however, is a bit like literacy: it’s something I had to learn and then have to practice, and can continually refine, without need of trappings like a feast or even a collection of others in the room. It’s a day off to remember that possibility exists. And possibility, for me, is the alphabet of the future.