I hope everyone reading this had a good day yesterday, whether you were celebrating Thanksgiving or not. We almost didn’t celebrate — I waffled until fairly late about whether we’d be doing it at all, in part because I was just so busy / tired, I wasn’t sure I could pull off the big meal. And in part because I am increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of ignoring the history of this holiday.
But you know, for Christmas, we’ve taken to doing an explicitly post-colonial Christmas tea, where I serve my favorite British foods (trifle, fruitcake, etc.) alongside Sri Lankan ‘short eats’ – as someone who is now making part of my living from Sri Lankan food culture, it’s impossible to ignore the culinary effects of waves of colonization on my little island. It seems better to acknowledge that sometimes bloody history, and to reflect on it.
So for Thanksgiving yesterday, we did have turkey and stuffing and all the trimmings, but when we sat down to eat, we opened with a deliberate conversation about whether we should celebrate this holiday at all.
At first the kids said yes, of course, but then we asked them how they’d feel if they had a Native American friend who found Thanksgiving sad, because it was a reminder of how their people had been killed and brutalized. Our kids are at least familiar with that part of the story already — their schools have been doing a much better job with that in recent years, which made it easier — we didn’t have to be the ones puncturing a rosy bubble. We asked if they want to celebrate Thanksgiving again next year.
Kavi and Anand aren’t sure, so we’ll revisit the question next year when it’s time. And maybe that means we’ll revisit it every year, going forward, or maybe that means at some point we’ll just stop. We love the food, but we can have turkey and stuffing some other day. Maybe we’ll start making Indigenous Peoples’ Day a big family and friends holiday down the road, because we do want and need reasons to come together in fellowship and community. We’ll see.
But for me, yesterday’s highlights included:
• that conversation, and a later one about various philosophical questions, such as determinism vs. free will — Anand is VERY anti-deterministic, and Kavi is surprisingly okay with it. Anand and Kavya have been watching The Good Place, and Anand is particularly interested in all the philosophical aspects; he loves debating them. Kavi doesn’t like Kantian philosophy at all (sorry, Jed, as I think your personal philosophy is closer to that, but as we told them, they should wait and discuss it with you over Christmas, as we can’t whole-heartedly present the arguments) — Kavi’s more of a utilitarian, or possibly closer to my own chaotic good alignment — the fine points are still to be determined…
• realizing I could turn over much of the meal planning and cooking to Kevin and Kavya and it would come out just fine (hooray for better divisions of domestic labor, and for giving up a little control in exchange for some much-needed rest)
• Karen stopping by beforehand with her kids, bearing many treats to share, and insisting on helping me pack up books and clear the table, which I’d sort of been dreading and avoiding; she even organized all the kids to break down a big stack of recycling in the kitchen and take it out!
• having Cee Gee join us for dinner with her friend Kendra, and having them give Kavi little art lessons after dinner; they’re both artists (painter and jeweler), and it was a joy watching Kavi show off her artwork to their compliments, and having them teach her some new techniques
• teaching both of them Lanterns — it was particularly fun introducing them to a cool art-themed game, esp. since they’re not familiar with the newer generation of board games; I’m thinking Sagrada next time, but also, I need to teach Cee Gee Forbidden Island, because her little ones are just old enough to play it, and there’s about to be a world of awesome gaming opening up to them — Catan Jr. and Kid Carcassone after that, and a year or two later, Machi Koro, etc….
The toughest moment of the day was when Anand misunderstood something a guest said, and got very upset; he tried to hold it together, but he also had a toothache (probably a cavity, we’ll have to take him in), and that combined with general holiday excitement meant that he just eventually lost it, and had to leave the table for a while to calm down.
Funniest / most awful moment was when we were trying to sort out the disagreement when he came back to the table, and it wasn’t working, and he was clearly still angry and our guest was upset, and I said, “Well, it certainly feels like Thanksgiving now!” And I probably shouldn’t have said it, because while we all cracked up, Anand didn’t appreciate the humor. In my defense, I was tired!
I managed to explain it to him later, though, that Thanksgiving is notorious for family blow-ups, because you bring a lot of people in close contact and even though they care about each other, there’s cooking pressure and lack of sleep / tiredness and also just time to say things that you’ve maybe wanted to say for a while and were holding back, and so people are sometimes not so nice to each other.
His tearful response: “I DEFINITELY don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving again!” But Anand did calm down eventually, and was able to laugh and have fun later, and today we’re going to make the pumpkin pie we didn’t have time to make yesterday, so he’s excited about that. As I said, we’ll revisit the Thanksgiving question next year.
In general, though, the holiday gave me a structure that helped me slow down and step away from the computer and intense labor – as you can see, while we managed with Karen and Carly’s help to clear off the table enough to set it, my dining room is still colonized by many boxes of Feast order paraphernalia. Getting there!
But I spent more time relaxing with friends and family yesterday than I have in quite a while. I really needed that, so for that at least, I’m thankful.