November 23, 2016
Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!
Also, this week marks the 10th anniversary of Wednesday’s Words.
I can’t believe that I’ve been yammering on here every week for ten years. Do you know my first few essays were only two or three paragraphs long? Ah, those were the days. I’m sure there are times when some of you reading my words wish these essays were still that short.
Thanksgiving was my first topic—when I was awaiting the publication of my first book in the coming spring, and trying to find my way in this amazing medium of the Internet. My original goal was to let you get to know me through my thoughts and ideas and dubious artistic style.
Ten years doesn’t seem like much, especially when you’re in your twenties and thirties. But these past ten years, I have gone from being a woman just into my fifties to one in my sixties, and let me tell you, it’s been an…interesting…ten years. The time has flown, punctuated by highlights and lowlights and everything in between. And through those years, and all those different lights, the holidays we celebrate kept returning, like an audio-video panorama on a continuous-play loop.
Each holiday, like Thanksgiving, seems more precious to me, the more the years pile up. The truth is that for those of us alive at this particular time in human history, with everything moving so quickly in our advanced technological age, the holidays are among those rare moments when lasting memories of love and friends and family are made and remembered. They’re the days or the seasons when we take a moment to immerse ourselves in those traditions that we enjoyed from the time we were young. I wonder if anyone has ever written a book about holiday traditions being the touchstones that anchor us in life? Someone should, if it hasn’t happened already. I think of these special times as center points—a spoke in the wheel of our lives that we keep coming back to as we travel our individual paths.
Holidays are also occasions when we are most likely to feel the loss of those no longer with us. I don’t think holidays fulfill their greatest potential for us without such moments of reflection. None of us are immortal, but we can all achieve a measure of immortality by living on in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind when we die. It’s proof of one of my favorite sayings—that people will remember how you made them feel long after they recall anything you ever said.
Turkey and stuffing, candied yams, and whatever other “trimmings” are special to your table are so much more than just food. They, too, are memories. No two cooks prepare their turkey the same way. My husband had an aunt who always cut the skin off the bird, just before serving it…and then tossed that discarded, golden crispy skin into the trash. Our Sonja has become a very good cook only because she knew it was necessary to feed her children (when she first came to us she said she hated cooking. I think she still does, but cooks anyway). And it is Sonja alone in our family who makes the very best turkey, always so moist and tasty—because she bastes it every half hour without fail. My husband only wants to eat turkey if Sonja has cooked it.
Looking back on the feasts over the course of my life, and beginning when I was just a child, I must confess that I enjoyed the turkey sandwiches the day after far more than I did the bird on the feast day itself. I am even guilty of sometimes putting a bit of stuffing between the turkey and the lettuce on my sandwich.
As you prepare to celebrate this Thanksgiving, I hope that your day will be filled with friends and family, good food, laughter and love. And that you will take a moment to gather it all in and hold it close to your heart.