If one looks at a year in a life as including several important milestones, then Thanksgiving is certainly one of them. It’s a time to pause and catch our breath. We can look forward to the good cheer of the coming holiday season: time we will cherish with family and good friends. It’s also a chance to look back on the year: on things accomplished, and things that might have been.
This is the day when all our impulses collide. We work hectically to fit the holiday in — hectic flying, hectic driving, hectic shopping and cooking — and yet we hope somehow that we will be sitting down, come dinner, to a full-fledged, old-fashioned Norman Rockwell “Freedom From Want” feast, with a roasted turkey that fulfills our emotional needs and embodies the permanence of our familial and communal bonds reaching right back to the 17th century. It may be too much to ask of one day and one bird and one set of relatives.
And yet all that fervor to be getting somewhere, to come to some quiet point of mutual celebration in the day suggests that Thanksgiving is still thriving. The light of late November registers deeply in nearly all of us. When dusk comes and yellow lights begin to shine out of the windows of houses upon a still largely snowless nation, you may begin to understand the force that has drawn us all together, bound by as much as love and as little as proximity.
Just when it feels as though we might be overlooking the meaning of this holiday — the peculiar value of Thanksgiving — it becomes clear that we have drawn together once again not to exchange the gifts our entire culture seems to be driving us to shop for but to share, simply, each other.
A Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!