An Attitude of Gratitude

Like many, I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. My parents divorced when I was two, so two holidays was normal. Then they remarried and we had step families and four holidays was just unreasonable, although I remember years where that was sometimes the case. Thanksgiving started to feel like a bunch of jumping through the hoops. The teenage girls are jumping on the fad diet train with their middle aged moms and we need a tofurkey, the right brand of cornbread stuffing mix, and something seasoned without garlic, salt, or butter for grandma’s graves disease. Make sure to get the step kids something for Christmas–they’re coming this year.

The fact that my step mom hated my mom, that sis and I looked a bit like her, and that we got presents from her also, made my step mom dislike us during Christmas—she generally disliked me anyways and I her. Nevertheless, the three girls (sis, step sis who was really just sis in our eyes, and myself) always got the same gift in different colors or styles according to our likes. Sometimes we traded. One year there was an unspoken competition between mom and dad to see who could do the better Christmas and we got a Playstation at mom’s, gameboy handhelds at dad’s. Every year after that, Christmas was about feasting and video games and I came to enjoy it quite a lot as long as we were allowed to clean up our mess from unwrapping presents and play the new Kingdom Hearts or GTA or COD. Whatever. Christmas was about virtual war.

Happy Black Friday by the way, speaking of war. This is the part of the holidays that I think gets people down, if we’re talking about the holidays and the whole “suicide rates increase by an insane percentage during the holidays” thing, I can’t think of something that rattles my cage more than a bunch of salivating shoppers, eyes alight with the vision of owning, holding, buying, that new shiny thing because it’s in.

Yesterday was Turkey Day and I woke up do DJ telling me the bread isn’t dry because I stacked a pan on top of some of it. He’s been tasked with stuffing for the feast and the bread isn’t dry. I’m not a morning person and the holidays are something I’m only coming to embrace again slowly for the sake that they do bring people together. But I don’t want to hear about the failed stuffing first thing in the morning.

I’m not going to shop and find that perfect thing at that perfect price. I’m a cook, cook’s wages, and you guys are getting hand knit goodies and pickling packages.

I’m not going to call everyone on Thanksgiving or Christmas. There. I said it. I don’t have to talk to my whole damned family just because it’s the time of year to do so. If we talk, excellent. If we meet at the Christmas party, great. But the promise of encountering random family members has always been overshadowed by the promise of free booze by which to enjoy them. I’m that person at the Christmas party who drinks all the wine, gets the kids riled up on candy and some dark nursery rhyme game, and leaves to smoke a joint in the woods and say a prayer to the mother goddess. Crazy aunt Courtney. Here I come world.

In college, my favorite paper to write was on the Christianization of Europe, a process which involved Romans taking over pagan temples and stories, attributing their own gods and stories to the rituals and traditions of the pagans. You might do the ritual this way, but our god is the right way.

Ritual and story literally drowned the pagan gods. Enforced ritual and story from Catholicism became law, and law became forever intertwined with Christian values, which are essentially just normal human values with a make believe man attached to them threatening to send you to burn in hell if you don’t do as he says. The man is capitalism and he tells you to go out and buy shit.

So, I’m getting over this whole the holidays are responsible for the scarification of my young psyche thing because as I get older I remember gatherings around the table with my family, good company, good food, and even the most random members of my family, and these are some damned good times. The best. I don’t plan on having kids either, but seeing my sister’s kids or my friends’ kids run around while the adults cook and drink and the kids let loose reminds me of when we were kids running around, makes me grateful for those times, grateful for these times when I’ve figured out what the adults are up to and am realizing it’s not at all what I expected, but it’s better with good company and good food.

I let go of the hatred for the holidays and their meanings, the bastardization of pagan stories and the burial of a way of life that might have kept us closer to the earth. Instead, we have this, and it is what we make of it. I started celebrating the holidays again because they brought me closer to my family, all of whom I stopped talking to for about a decade after high school. I got emancipated at sixteen and peaced the fuck out. Working on holidays was a relief. Bonuses, no family to stress about pleasing. But later, the more I got to know them, see them, and sit down around a table with good food with them, the more I came to realize that I’d forgotten all the good times and was pleased for the reminder that these are the times we must value.

The more stories and memories I hear being related, the more I understand that my memory is awful, my perspective was very limited, and I missed out on a lot of good times. So around the holidays, getting to know and see family again became a way of getting to understand different perspectives of a story that is this life, and this life is richer for it.

And on years when I couldn’t see family, Friendsgiving was just as excellent. I’ve had thanksgiving with my dog and a bottle of wine and a movie and pizza. Plenty of service industry workers work right through Turkey day and celebrate at the bar, which I might have done but honestly can’t remember. Wherever Turkey day brings you, whomever you are with whether that be yourself, your friends, and your family, I hope this holiday brings you plenty to be grateful for.

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