Thanksgiving this year was a particularly joyous occasion. It was a holiday filled with way too much food, new friends turned adopted family, and lots of reflection. We prepped, we preened, we prepared and we were preceded to roll out all the stops for a bustling house filled with soul food and cheer. One nagging little thought that reared its little head over and over again was the subtle, but persistent, idea that something was missing.
In all of the abundance of the occasion, it’s hard to believe that something could possibly be missing. After all, we had each other and a barrel of laughs. But, there were a series of absences. There was no flour. There was no working guest bathroom. The lights went out, so we were without electricity for a time. There were “oops, I think I forgot”s and “darn it, I should have brought”s, closely followed by “can we run out and get?”s tapering off with “next time [he/she/it] should come”s. There were phones on vibrate and instatweetbook updates to stay connected with all those who were absent, even with so many people present. And even I found myself thinking, in a sea full of “yes”s, it’s amazing how easily we cling to one measly little “no.” With a basket full of blessings, it’s shocking how fast we critique the clasp that doesn’t keep all the goodness securely tucked in.
Let’s face it, this was my first time hosting Thanksgiving. In my attempt to re-create a holiday from an imagined place of perfection, I tried to transfer a caricature to a completely foreign space, with uncommon ingredients, and unseasonably warm weather. It wasn’t going to be perfect and perhaps I shouldn’t have been striving for it. What I got was a meme that was worth a few chuckles and lots of good memories in the making.
I found myself acting like my maternal grandmother. Apologizing for things that made no sense, acting nervous when my in-laws arrived, pretending to ration out food only to hand out aluminum foil and tupperware with zest. I was antsy and nervous. In the hopes that everyone else was okay and distracted, I pined for my favored pastime of laying across the foot my grandmother’s bed at the end of my first Thanksgiving meal. Why? Because, eating is a tiresome game. And that’s pretty much my role each year – to be a stellar eater.
This year marked a change to my role in this whole play on tradition and traveling calamity, however. I stopped being a taker, the one with empty and idle hands. The one who drops in for a meal and runs away when her plate is empty. The helicopter family member. This year reigned in the era of my being a giver.
To my mind, a giver always notices what’s missing, because there are many needs and so many needy. There could never possibly be enough to go around, no matter how many supermarkets we go to, how many bags of chicken we defrost and how many invitations we send to friends and family – present and future – there’s a thrust to do more.
While I can’t help but wish Tareeq were here and I’m sure my paternal grandma can’t help but wish Janie were too, for those seated at our tables of giving on Thursday being present was, in fact, enough. Communing, communicating, being thankful and appreciative – in our own individual ways – is a team sport and I found all present to be well equipped.
For me that was a powerful lesson.
What I’ve learned from all of this is simply that while it may always feel that something is missing, I’m thankful that in my circle of family and friends there really was enough. Much like Ekhart Tolle‘s lessons in the ‘Power of Now,’ it just takes a moment of self-reflection to remember that we’re doing our best and we’re doing okay. I could harken back to a time when things were different, dare I say better, but in the moment of saying grace before we ate and in the moments before the last guests left, we had enough… of everything. That’s a luxurious statement to make and an extravagant luxury to experience in these days & times.
So even if just for that alone, I give thanks and anticipate fully the thanks of giving [more than] enough for many years to come.