I mark a flurry of years in holidays. Last year, I was in Maryland with my father’s family, on the outside of a motley crew of friends and neighbors that gather there every year to reconnect. The year before must have been New Hampshire, with my mother’s new companion, or my father’s house in the woods. Year before that, I don’t recall. Wait. I recall. How convenient of me to forget that three years ago I flew to Edinburgh to see a man I liked and soon after left. Four years ago I sat at a long table in Tibet, with four more Americans and fifteen others from a buffet of nations; we each brought a dish to share, dropped sentences of gratitude into a hat, mixed them up, and plucked them out; one by one we vocalized our thanks through other people. Five years ago I waited tables at an Inn in Maine with the promise of time and a half, a promise that was renounced that morning before opening; that night the servers got high and I baked a sweet potato pie with the only measuring cup available, one-third, guesstimating the ingredients, and swearing it was the best dish on earth. Six years ago I ate at an Irish-American pub in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a full plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a side of apple pie, dishes I didn’t know I’d craved for two months. Seven years ago I was in Maryland, my hair cropped close to my head, having shaved it on my way to India three months prior; I hadn’t seen my family since my hair was down past my chest. Eight years ago I flew from my college in California to the place I still considered home, New Hampshire. Nine years ago I was a senior in high school, discovering The Rule of the Bone, The Catcher in the Rye, and Everything is Illuminated; novels that made one feel less alone.
Holidays are momentous because we render them so; the intention is there to turn an ordinary date into something to remember. This is why they become easy for me to mark: one year here another there, places–states and nations–acting like place settings in the dining room. Though I am not very enthusiastic about holidays, disgusted by the excess consumption and the history of colonization, my heart melts faster than vanilla ice cream on hot apple pie each Thanksgiving.
The Macy’s parade, an ostentatious procession, makes me teary-eyed; I remember my elbows bristled by the carpet of my grandmother’s house, where I sat glued to the television, relishing the bulbous floats, basking in the simplicity of life, too young to cook or clean. We awoke early and drove two hours south to Massachusetts, just so we could watch the parade, just so we could see Santa’s first appearance. At least, that’s how it seemed to me, though I’m sure there were more nuanced and practical reasons why my family orchestrated the beginnings of the day before dawn: turkeys to roast, pies to bake, potatoes to mash.
This is the first year I’ll spend Thanksgiving with my husband, in Oregon, a place far-removed from our own families, a place that suits us well for now. Snow fell on our hometown and the power went out, so our parents make do with wood stoves, generators, and barbecues, telling us all about it by phone. Oregon is rainy, fifty degrees, and I can’t complain. There is a roast in the oven, a pumpkin pie cooling by the kitchen window, and a pan of seasoned vegetables awaiting their turn on the stove; none of which I can take even a shred of credit for preparing.
There is much for which to be thankful.