A Thanksgiving tradition
We have a family tradition at Thanksgiving. One holiday, a long time ago, I handed everyone a different colored Sharpie and told our family and guests to write down whatever they were thankful for at that moment, right on the white tablecloth we were using. The younger kids, who couldn’t write yet, dictated to the older kids or drew pictures, then we signed and dated our entries.
Since then we’ve continued to add to it every year–although we no longer use that tablecloth AS a tablecloth since we’re messy people and all that heartwarming stuff would get covered with smeared yams and gravy stains. So now the tablecloth gets spread out on a coffee table first thing on Tday morning, and at some point during the day, we (and any guests–guests are required to participate) find an empty space to write down something we’re particularly thankful for that year. Family, friends, and pets are always popular choices.
The entries run the gamut from heartwarming to funny to sophomoric to sad–and back to heartwarming again. One of my youngest son’s first entries (as dictated to his older sister, who was still in preschool) reads: “I am thankful whan mommy gives me a pumkin.” That’s definitely a funny–if somewhat inexplicable–one. So are the thanks my oldest son gave to the existence of Borat a couple of years ago.
The poignancy award goes to my late father-in-law’s entry: “I’m thankful to be here alive.” Also to my own entry the year my mother died: “I am thankful that we’re together but I miss Sooky.”
You can read history on the tablecloth. We have a huge number of thanks given by non-relatives on Thanksgiving 2001, because all our friends who normally travel around the country to visit family on the holidays stayed close to home after 9/11, and so we hosted an enormous and well-attended Thanksgiving here that year. And you can trace the life cycle of our many pets by whether the kids are grateful for them or are mourning them.
One thing, though, really strikes me as I look through the many multi-colored writings–how sad I often am on such a happy holiday. One Thanksgiving I wrote, “I’m thankful for any day that doesn’t bring a new sadness.” Most of my entries are more upbeat than that, but they’re not always as happy as they could be.
I’m the first to admit I’m prone to mild depression. I’ll also admit that our family’s had a lot of stresses over the years, what with three of our kids having fairly major diagnoses of some disease or disorder or another and two of our parents dying within the last five years. But as I was running around today, stressed out beyond belief–as I’ve been every day this week–it occurred to me that maybe there’s a reason I’m especially likely to be a little down on Thanksgiving.
November sucks. For a lot of reasons. The honeymoon is over–the school year always STARTS well for us, but lethargy, exhaustion, denial, and laziness all creep in and suddenly the kids aren’t doing all that well and they’re complaining a lot about work, teachers, the point of it all . . .
Meanwhile, Rob and I are both stressed about work in November. He’s deep into it; I’m worried about the holidays coming up and how everything grinds to a halt in publishing, so anything I need to submit I need to submit RIGHT AWAY or know it’s going to be too late and no one will look at anything I do until after January by which point someone else will probably have sold my idea.
The holidays come flying past us in the fall and we can’t keep up. There’s always more to do, more stuff the school needs donated for its drives and fundraisers (and I never do enough–so much less than everyone else and yet still more than I feel I can deal with–so I have to skulk around campus feeling guilty as well as overwhelmed). There’s holiday meal planning and family travel that needs arranging and gift-giving right around the corner . . . I could go on and on but you all know this already. No wonder I’m prone to depression in November. No wonder I sometimes write things that are more sad than thankful–even though I know–I really do–that I’m incredibly lucky and have more wonderful things in my life than I deserve.
It’s just . . . November gets to me. Which makes me think: maybe the reason Thanksgiving comes so late in the month is simply so we can celebrate the fact that it’s ALMOST OVER.