Monday, November 25, 2013

In The Pursuit of Happiness: On family Thanksgivings

I've been thinking about family and Thanksgiving this morning, friends, because, well, we're only three days away from the big day. Most people enjoy the holiday weekend the easy way. They sip hot chocolate with three marshmallows as they sit wrapped in a blanket in front of the fireplace. They sing holiday carols as they drape silver tinsel on the ceiling-high tree. They might even laugh around a family game of Scrabble.

My mother is definitely not one of these people. On day one of our five-day Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago, her bellowing yawn and earth-shattering sneeze roused me from my near-perfect sleep. “Look at this house,” she scoffed like Supernanny. “We have to clean it from top to bottom. Now."

Sadly, a part of me knew this was coming. This is how our family has spent the holiday season for the last few years. Scrubbing. Sweeping. Sorting. Sanitizing. I couldn't do it again that year. I just didn't have it in me. Maybe my mother's a stronger person than I am, but the thumping of the washing machine hurt my ears, the smell of Pine-Sol made me dizzy and the sight of my mother's armor -- a cleaning cloth and a smorgasbord of mops -- brought tears to my eyes. “I need to finish my newspaper column,” I told her as I made my escape to the computer. “What are you writing about for Thanksgiving? You have to,” she demanded. “If you write a column about being thankful, you can get out of cleaning.” Truthfully, I hadn't planned on writing about Turkey Day. But if it meant I'd be cleaning-free... My savior. Finally. I'll take it. But I couldn't help but wonder: Is it the here-and-now I'm thankful for, or am I more grateful of the past, those days of yore that give me something to smile about today despite the rough and tough road my family's traveled? Can we ever truly recapture the Thanksgivings our younger selves lived for?
As a child, it wasn't my mother's yawning that stirred me from under my bed sheets. Thanks to my keen sense of smell, I leaped out of bed at the promise of crisp bacon and soft eggs, though a bit burned thanks to my mother's classic cooking. Before the days of eating hurriedly over the sink, my family would sit down in front of our small television to watch the gigantic floats sweep across the New York City skyline. Charlie Brown. Snoopy. Big Bird. It was the '80s, so I'm sure there was a blue Smurf mixed in with the bunch too. They were so lifelike, I almost wanted to jump through the television and ride on Big Bird all the way to Park Avenue. And as I oohed and aahed at the sparkly spectacular, I looked around at my family, and I mentally began to take make my list. An annual inventory of my stock -- as innocent and simple as it was back then. I was thankful for school. Each day gave me something new to learn and a chance to laugh. Math. Spelling. State capitals. Throwing off my coat at recess. Swinging from the tire swing. There was never a cloudy day on that playground. I was thankful for my friends. They never judged me for wearing flashy colored shorts. They never picked me last in gym. They never left me, but rather stuck by me through thick and thin; when you're 7, it's a never-ending sea of thin. You never think you'll ever find yourself swimming against the tide in a sea of thick pudding, but in the back of your mind, you know your friends would be the first to pull you out. I was thankful for my family. The four of us stood together like glue. Back then, there was no doubt in my mind that we'd be together forever, never mind the twists and turns life takes. We'd twist and turn right along with it. As the fierce foursome we'd always been.

It's an innocent notion, I know, but I pictured us sitting around that same television in 20 years, eating the same breakfast and watching the same floats, well, float by. See, that was all I ever really needed. Those three things. School. Friends. Family. They were my lifelines. But now, our lives seem to move in reverse instead of forward these days. We're constantly going in overdrive. We don't usually get a little piece of time to stop and sit and reflect. This year, I'm going to try to relax over Thanksgiving weekend, just like I did when I was a kid. And who knows...maybe I can even convince my mom to do the same. Any suggestions, friends? xoxo

[Photos via We Heart It]


  1. this is a really sweet post. i hope that you can get her to relax! i like the part about we are trying to relive our younger holidays, that is so true.

  2. I can see how the holidays can be stressful and I think it's so important to enjoy them and maybe let go. I also think parents especially get so wound up about the holidays being perfect and it just has to be your perfect not everyones perfect.


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