Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” Jon Stewart

On Thanksgiving Day, I would ask my family what they were thankful for. My mother used to do that. It was a tradition – something I wanted to carry on from my childhood.  Thanksgiving is a day to remember to be grateful. We never prayed before a meal but one day a year we said thank you. 

I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving with my mother in many years. Our families lived back East and Thanksgiving was the holiday that my in-laws came to visit.  My sister-in-law loved to cook Thanksgiving dinner and we had it at their house. Since we were not cooking, we had Thanksgiving movie before going to dinner. There are always big movies that open on Thanksgiving. That was our family holiday tradition.  

When our life changed, Thanksgiving became one of those days that we didn’t know what do with.  We didn’t have a tradition anymore. There are so many expectations and family issues that come up with holidays. It is hard for me not to have a plan but I try to let go of that now.  Sometimes I do it at the house and sometimes we go somewhere.  We spend it with other people’s families or we do something by ourselves.  I miss the security of having a tradition but I have learned to go with the flow. Whatever we do, it always turns out to be fun and delicious – different, but fun. 

My mother died on the weekend before Thanksgiving so I am always a little sad now around the holidays.  Wherever I am celebrating, in my head, I hear my mother’s voice asking, what are you thankful for today?

Here is my list.

Sunsets. I can see the sunset on the beach every night.

The way the light hits my house in the morning.

My dog – even though he is not the same as my first dog.

My kids are happy, healthy and doing well.

 Morning coffee.

I’m still traveling.

Having an amazing day in a country not your own.

A great walk through the Venice Beach canals to have lunch.

Opening a beautifully wrapped present.

An interesting conversation.

The feeling I have in an airport.

Someone who makes me laugh.

A good hair day.

Fun with my friends.

A great movie,  museum, play, ballet or TV show.

Dessert.

Kindness.

Walking or driving by a beautiful street art mural.

Having an amazing meal.

Pizza night.

Great music and  rock concerts.

Getting lost in a book.

Healthyish.

Writing something that I’m proud of.

My favorite jeans.

Shoes that do not hurt.

The endorphin rush after exercise.

Still able to have some of my photographs and art.

Hitting every green light on Venice Blvd on the way home (especially at Lincoln Blvd – the world’s longest red light)

Happy Thanksgiving.

JAZ

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The First Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving

“If you’re going to America, bring your own food.”     
Fran Lebowitz

I overheard a conversation between four immigrants.  They were discussing Thanksgiving  with  the confidence of people who had celebrated all their lives.  “My wife makes the turkey but we always do Israeli cous cous, salad and hummus to to go along with it, “ said the Israeli man.  “I have to have rice. I like to put my turkey on the white rice and eat it, replied the Vietnamese woman.  “ We make the turkey more spicy. My family likes spicy”, added the Colombian woman. “My friends and I go out. I love my turkey on Thanksgiving “, said the man from Budapest. I listened to the different accents discussing the best way to cook a turkey. It was clearly their holiday.

Most of them learned about the tradition from their kids. It is the same way that my grandparents learned about America. The kids assimilate first. They learn in school how to be  American kids.  My Vietnamese hairdresser said his son came home from school one day crying that they didn’t have turkey to eat. “So I went and bought a turkey breast and cooked it Vietnamese style with soy sauce and spices. Now we make best  American turkey in my family. Every year we learn more and we do it better.”  My Vietnamese manicurist said the first year they bought a turkey leg and cooked it with vegetables and rice and shared it with ten people. Now she cooks a roast on Christmas, a lamb on Easter and a whole turkey on Thanksgiving.

A Russian friend told me she learned about it at work.“Everyone asked what I was doing for the holiday and I didn’t know about this holiday. They told me that Columbus discovered America and there was a bird involved. I needed to cook this bird for the holiday. They told me it was Appreciation Day. Every year we say what we appreciate.  The first year I followed the recipe they gave me for the stuffing. No one liked it.  Now I make a Russian buckwheat stuffing which we love.”

I remember my Italian neighbors always had a pasta  on the table. “We can’t have a holiday without sauce”,  the mom would say. My  friends in Japan studied in the US.  Every year they miss Thanksgiving.  One of them makes a turkey every Thanksgiving. She puts the pictures on facebook.  Her small children who don’t speak English yet, have celebrated Thanksgiving in Japan every year since they were born.

I don’t know if any of these people know the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians.  It is  only discussed in elementary school.

But what I do know is for this one day in America,  we are all doing the same thing. Thanksgiving is the only day in this country that surpasses race, religion, ethnic background,  economic background, location,  country of origin, age, sex, sexual orientation and political affiliations.  We are all  having turkey  (or side dishes if you are vegetarian) with friends and family.  If we can all agree to have turkey on Thanksgiving,  some day we can learn to agree on other things. I guess that  is what Thanksgiving means – a day of peace, hope and gratitude. Maybe they do know the story – the modern version.

When I first met my daughter’s boyfriend, he told me that his family didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving because they are South African.   Our dinner is at their house this year.

Tell me your Thanksgiving stories.

Fly Safe and Happy Thanksgiving (The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest flying day of the year in the US)

JAZ