Stories for a Very Different Kind of Thanksgiving
Before we log off to join our respective Zoom Thanksgivings, we wanted to share a few memorable perspectives on this holiday — how it started, the stories we tell ourselves about it, and what it means to give thanks (especially this year). You’ll find humor, revisionist history, and some advice on coping with homesickness (if that’s what you’re feeling this highly unconventional holiday season). Also, a few of our favorite family-themed personal essays.
Until next week,
The Human Parts Team
I was five years old when my mom took off with me to the coast. She said she needed a do-over. We were starting fresh, with no belongings, no toys, no furniture. She said we had empty hands so that we could catch new blessings.
We also had empty pockets, and she had no job. She’d drank our whole life away, and the booze had left us washed up in a tiny beach town called Rockaway, Oregon. She was hoping the ocean would catch her tears and loosen her chains…
A reminder that, in Walsingham’s words, “When you’re feeling stressed or sad about your current circumstances, re-experiencing familiar stories can bring a soothing sense of control.”
On refugees, colonizers, and porridge.
Have you ever thought that whoever decided to time Thanksgiving just weeks after presidential elections was an American sadist? Welp, it was Abraham Lincoln who made that call. And Franklin Roosevelt actually tried to make the annual family meal/debate even closer.
When I was first learning to cook, I asked my grandmother how everything she made tasted incredible. “You might laugh because it sounds silly, but if you think about the people you are cooking for as you do it, and how you want them to feel when they eat it, your food will tell them that,” she said, as though it were just that simple. I was 22 then, and this sounded simultaneously profound and cheesy. But I’ve never forgotten her words, and they ring truer the older I get. The meals that linger on my tongue are always the ones I make with intention, and those intentions somehow do reach their intended recipients. The meals I remember are the ones that tie me to people I cherish. The aromas rising from the stove rarely lie.
America loves helping the shoeless, iPhoneless, voteless, bug-infested Street Jesuses. These are the lost-cause poor; all they want is your pocket change. (Bless their hearts.) But the working poor? Those who claim to not have enough money for food because they also need clothes for work, water for bathing and laundry, rent for housing, heat in the winter, money for daycare, a smartphone for their job, car insurance and gas — those are some shifty motherfuckers.
I read once that Sigmund Freud believed laughter was a response to fear, which is why you don’t laugh when you tickle yourself. I believe families should laugh together because life is terrifying. If we’re all going to be afraid, then we should all be afraid together.
The most valuable resource you have is not money and not time, but the way you spend your attention. The way you use your mind will color the way you view the world, so be mindful of the information and people you are in regular contact with.
By surrounding yourself with people you love, you build a world where you are loved. By applying yourself to worthwhile challenges, you live a life where everything is meaningful. By choosing to see the good in humanity, you feel empowered to live up to that standard.