I feel a special shade of terrible.
The idea that we have of Thanksgiving is pretty iconic: a roasted turkey, fireplaces, fall leaves and family. For some people like myself, that can be pretty heartbreaking because we’ve created a standard some of us can’t fulfill. Luckily, part of what I think is so phenomenal about the time we live in is that we have become so comfortable rolling our own paths in relationships.
There are plenty of families in my phone book bucking the notion of “traditional family” and most couples I know, of any makeup, aren’t concerning themselves with the judgement people used to have about remaining unmarried, living together, having kids. One of my best friends is embarking on purposeful, single motherhood by choice.
I spent one sad year alone, on the couch, while my boyfriend went off to his family’s house for Thanksgiving (they couldn’t stand me, and it was pretty mutual), and hoped that the Macy’s parade and some doberman snuggles would be enough to satiate me. I love time alone, but it wasn’t just any other Thursday, it was Thanksgiving, and I realized I needed a house full of delicious smells, full of people, full of activity, full of .. something.
And that was the last year I was alone.
I began to make the point of looking for Thanksgivings I could join. I would visit friends all over the globe, from Rome to Cincinnati to Phoenix to Boston. I became a guest (and in some cases, my doberman Lucy, too) and partook in other people’s traditions, whether they had a family Thanksgiving or an “orphans” Thanksgiving.
Eventually, I found a home that I loved enough to be ready to host my own friends Thanksgiving, and I’m thrilled to do so again for a third year. I don’t worry about how many chairs there are, I know we’ll figure it out. I don’t worry about how much food there is, my experience is that no matter how much there is, it will get eaten, and however little there is, no one complains.
The invitation is open. Bring absolutely whomever you want. If you have a friend or coworker without a place for Thanksgiving, insist on bringing them. Literally the only rule in my house is you can’t mind having a slobbering doberman in your lap at some point in the day and I could probably get around that if I wanted to.
What it reminds us is that Thanksgiving is at base, despite everything depicted in stores and media, not about food. It is about feeding ourselves with the people around us. About thanking.. whomever… for being part of the structure that makes us who we are. For being part of our lives, our work, our community, our history.
There is still time, so I encourage each of you, if you don’t have a Thanksgiving to go to, to create your own. Make that Facebook invite TODAY and invite everyone you know. Make people feel welcome. Whether you do the cooking, or make it potluck or order in pizza (you can do that, you know). Whether yours will be full of wine or alcohol free to honor someone’s commitment, whether it includes turkey or vegan or some other tradition, give yourself a group of people to surround yourself with and put some real thanks out into the universe.
If you simply can’t, then you must reach out to your group of people and find a place to go. Let people know you’re available and would like a place to go for Thanksgiving and then accept when they offer.
Even if its your very first time hosting a Thanksgiving, don’t worry, we’ll get you through it. Coming in the next 2-3 weeks are every single kind of recipe and tutorial you’d need to idiotproof your holiday.
If you’re in Portland and don’t have a dinner to go to, you’re invited to mine. I hope you like dobermans, inappropriate behavior and the Macy’s parade.