Over Easy: Grateful to be together on Thanksgiving

For the Valley News
Published: 11/20/2021 11:34:25 AM
Modified: 11/20/2021 11:34:12 AM

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and so is Leftovers Week, which is a little like Shark Week on TV. We transform into nature’s perfect eating machines, on the hunt for comfort carbs and power proteins, day after day, night after night.

And there’s fats, glorious fats.

It starts with Turkey Day, when many Americans become so stuffed they drift off like Sleeping Beauty or, in the case of somnolent droolers, Snoring Ugly. The upside: They can avoid Uncle Ralph’s troubling political views. Conspiracy theories served with root vegetables can be tough on the constitution.

Better to pass the potatoes and skip divisive topics, from politics to childhood wounds from 50 years ago. The statute of limitations has run out on the ruined Chatty Cathy doll. The Lego heist? Let it go.

Distraction is often found in the NFL safe room. The Detroit Lions have been playing football on Thanksgiving Day since 1621 (I may be off by a few years) for a holiday diversion. In recent years, staring at screens has provided refuge for teens from dad jokes (I plead guilty) and intense inquisitions about college plans (ditto).

I have more than 60 Thanksgivings under my belt, let out a notch or two if necessary, with almost no deep conversations. You can tsk-tsk at this, but it’s a day to believe, or make believe, that everyone is fine, the extended family is thriving — and let all signs to the contrary pass.

I think of this as my version of the Thanksgiving play kindergartners have long performed with Pilgrim hats and culturally dubious headdresses. In that narrative, natives were perfectly fine with the new arrivals, even if they were spreading disease and gobbling up land because, well, what the heck, let’s have some turkey and cranberries.

Modern-day Thanksgivers don’t parade in with paper hats designating them as liberal, conservative, ready to quit their job, mulling divorce, worried about the kids, under financial stress, etc. It’s just as well, since I want everyone to be a happy Pilgrim, you might say.

This contented, thankful state is easier to maintain here in the Upper Valley, where people in the main are pretty decent. We concentrate on mowing our own lawns and building bridges together, and separating our recyclables at the dump. As of yet, local people don’t seem to hate the other side, especially in towns where they share lunch at Town Meeting. Calling someone a Marxist or fascist doesn’t make sense when you’re debating the road budget. We are in this together, mostly, and we should be grateful.

By my calculation, a great majority of human interactions involve some degree of annoyance. Perhaps at the first Thanksgiving there was gossip and backbiting as they shared the really big meal, but they put off warfare for another day. Maybe that’s the best we can do.

Last year, if I recall correctly, Dede and I celebrated the holiday alone and together because of the pandemic, when traveling and gathering seemed unwise. She roasted a chicken. We made telephone calls. I suppose we texted, because this is how we live now. It felt kind of lonely.

This year we are traveling to Massachusetts, for a larger but still modest gathering — not the full Monty, maybe half. Ahead of it, I think of Thanksgiving dinners through the years, sweet and savory, chipper and bittersweet. I remember the year my older brother barfed up boiled onions, which he swore off forever. Like little brothers everywhere, I thought it was high comedy and brought it up annually for the next 15 years or so. I remember my mother’s apple and mincemeat pies. I remember being a tongue-tied teenager, having lost the ability to speak around my cousins. I remember the people who have shared the table who are no longer with us, a list that grows longer and dearer with time.

Next week we will be with family members we haven’t seen for too long. If we don’t have the time or space to pour out our hearts to each other, that will be OK. We will substitute gravy instead.

We will eat too much and laugh enough and hug.

Maybe we’ll skip the hugs because of the COVID threat, but we will want to hug, which is the main thing.

It will be a Thanksgiving to remember, because we have missed them across the wide social distance. Let all blessings flow. Let the whipped cream, too.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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