I always remember my Thanksgivings as a child, more-so than even Christmas. My father’s family was a multilevel entity and at its head were my great-aunts, Estelle and Betty. By sheer force of will, these two sisters -like veritable Queens of the Burnside clan- summoned relatives from the far corners of the world it seemed. They then held court by feeding the bejeesus out of us.
I remember they had these metal cups that always had a certain metallic tang to them. I shudder to think what I might have been ingesting as a child, but I will always associate that with Turkey Day. I remember being surrounded by all these adults, not a child in sight, since my closest cousins were over a decade old than me. I remember my first Thanksgiving with sour kraut, always a staple for me and a puzzle for everyone else who has entered my life. turkey and stuffing just aren’t right without the kraut.
But most of all, I remember the family, the people, the community. I hardly knew any of these people. Some didn’t even look like they belonged, but they did. For one glorious shining day (in my memories, at least) we had Irish-Scotsman, Poles, Czechs, and Native Americans under one roof, at one table and we were family. We were a melting pot with turkey and stuffing.
In the years since, that family has drastically dwindled. After the death of my great-aunts, the Burnside family drifted apart. There was no one who could command the family quite like the sisters and as such, that idea of thanksgiving slipped away in my life. Over the years I’ve had some great smaller Thanksgivings and some truly horrible Thanksgivings as well. Just a very few years ago, I was miles away from my father (as my mother had passed away in 2001) and utterly alone, even though I was with people that society said I should refer to as family. It was as far from those earlier years as possible.
My life has changed amazingly since then. I’m married to my wonderful wife, Jennifer, for whom I am daily thankful and through whom everything in my life is possible. I have inherited her family and gained back some portion of that earlier ideal of what a Thanksgiving should be. I’ve started writing and have nearly passed the first test of actually seizing upon that part of myself, which is exciting and uplifting beyond measure. At the risk of incurring fate, I am happier than at any time since my childhood. i hope the same can be said for anyone reading this.
As you sit across the table form your family, be they a snapshot of Norman Rockwell or a frame from the Simpsons, find thankfulness for them. I know from experience that Turkey and dressing and football are not what makes today so important. I
t’s the family, the community, the shared experiences that are what we should all be thankful for.
And pecan pie, of course.