It seemed only fair to allocate Thanksgiving five days on the calendar last week instead of the sole Thursday assigned by Abraham Lincoln, and officially approved by Congress. No encroaching of Christmas into the last weekend of November, when there’s all of December stretching ahead for that holiday.
At 3 p.m. Wednesday my official season of Thanksgiving began. No hustle, no hassle, just preparation and then celebration for the rest of that day, and the four days that followed.
The weekend’s busy but unrushed pace, the meals of every variety, the alternating gatherings of dozens or only a few, the outings and the quiet times at home, weaved together into an extended gratitude event that was more than just a feeling.
Call it “The Five Days of Thanksgiving,” the overture to the grand musical that is the busy–ness and celebrations of December.
On Wednesday afternoon, my first day of Thanksgiving, I was grateful for food in abundance, in evidence at the grocery store. The shelves overflowed with thousands of options for food, despite it being “the last minute” when I arrived there at 5 p.m. True, the only remaining turkeys were frozen, with not enough time to thaw. And no pumpkin products could be found.
But there was no turkey or pumpkin on my list; instead, ham, cheese, dessert, hummus and veggies, ingredients for weekend snacks and pickup meals. Plus, salad makings and iced tea to contribute to a grand feast on Thursday.
On the second day of Thanksgiving I was grateful for families — mine and others, those who open their doors wider until everyone can fit inside.
On Thursday, the families of “The Kids Block” in Parkside Neighborhood, i.e. the 1200 block of 49th Street, held a street party/sit down dinner, complete with official city permits and barricades to reroute traffic. A single table straddled the middle of the block, set for over 40 people. My mom and I opted to join this casual outdoor extravaganza instead of doing something more formal at a downtown restaurant or more intimate at home.
Nine–month old twins Hamish and James Pinkerton were the youngest there, with almost 20 kids present altogether. My mom and I sat across from a family we didn’t know–a SCAD professor and his two sons. The boys go to Charles Ellis School, where Mom attended kindergarten in the 1930’s.
After living in Parkside for 14 years I know a lot of my neighbors, but there were many unfamiliar faces.
At four o’clock I excused myself and headed to Wilmington Island for another new kind of family Thanksgiving — the first for my half–brother and half sister since their mom, my stepmother, died this past spring. Brenda Hershey’s home was always the place for family get-togethers, and with her gone, everything’s different.
Her sister Ginger’s home, site of this year’s Thanksgiving, was filled with the delicious smells of casseroles and gravy, and crowded with cousins and nieces and fiances and husbands. Football was on TV, and there were plenty of jokes and hugs. But lingering through the afternoon was an odd, unspoken gap in the crowd, as if Brenda was away on an errand, or maybe running late.
Friday, the third day, I was grateful for solitude — glad to spend a quiet morning alone with coffee in the living room, deep in a book, with breaks to check reports on Facebook regarding friends’ shopping conquests on Black Friday.
Saturday, I was grateful for friendships. Drop in visits to neighbors to deconstruct the Thanksgiving party. Tentative conversations about plans for the coming month–a wedding one weekend, a Chanukah celebration the next. And a last–minute get-together for football watching, made even more fun by the lack of planning required — grab some leftovers and go.
Sunday, the fifth day, I was grateful for endings. The end to Thanksgiving 2009, wrapped in a bright red Christmas bow.