My ongoing journey throughout life has taught me a great many things; often it has shown me to be naïve about a multitude of issues, much to my dismay. Thanksgiving is one those instances that has always driven my naiveté home for me, in that I took the affinity I had for it for granted.
Thanksgiving was always my favorite time of year, not because of the opportunity to have a couple of days off from school, but because I would get to see a large swath of both sides of my family. I never subscribed to the mythology of the Thanksgiving holiday, as it was always about the camaraderie of family for me.
On Thursday morning I would awaken to the rustling of my little sisters watching TV downstairs, the droning sound of snoring in unison, complements of my brothers and Dad filling the hallway and the purposeful clattering of my Mother in the kitchen preparing a couple of her trademark dishes for the festivities of the day. I knew that I had to shower before anyone else had the inkling to commandeer the bathroom. Because once my Mother finished cooking and everyone got cleaned, preened and pressed that we were headed out the door for our first stop which was my paternal Grandmother’s house.
When we pulled up and made our way up to the house, I could always count on my Grandma meeting us at the door to shower me and my siblings with hugs and kisses, as I think back I remember that she would always make me feel as if I comprised the center of the Universe. She would take our coats and we would make our way into the house where my aunts, uncles and cousins were scattered about. The prerequisite “Soul Train” line of hugs and kisses were a given before I could even begin to wrap my mind around the concept of stuffing my face.
Being privy to the conversations that were being held by everyone throughout the house was truly magical and at a young age I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I don’t remember the confines of many of the conversations but it was the torrential laughter and the joy it filled me with that I remember the most. This was the one of the few times that everyone would be in one place and we always made sure that we made up for the prior months that were missed.
After a couple hours we would don our coats to make our way to my paternal Great Aunt’s house, accordingly we went through the “Soul Train” line of hugs and kisses just as we did when we entered and piled into the car to make our way across Chicago and into the western suburbs where my Mother’s side of the family were congregated. This segment of my family was a little bit larger and was comprised of more children, but the “Soul Train” line was still a prerequisite for entrance.
We rung the doorbell and whoever was closest to the door would answer. As we filed in cigarette smoke would be wafting through the air, the booming voices of my Great Aunts and Uncles playing cards in the back of the house were unmistakable in their intensity; as was the infectious laughter of my BigMomma as they regaled each other with stories from their childhood; the sight of my cousins positioned around the dinner table with their faces smeared with food spoke the unmistaken language of love and our gazes of affinity were met with their smiles.
I was quick to make a beeline to the kitchen to make a plate so that I could join the fraternity of the smeared faces, but not without going through the “Soul Train” line. The laughter that reverberated throughout the house was nothing short of intoxicating and we would pick up where we left off last without skipping a beat, with the football game blaring from the TV in the living room this always felt like a slice of heaven. I always remembered wishing that I could make time come to a standstill, but time marched on without any acknowledgement of my futile desire.
Being surrounded by my family as always provided a center of stability that I am still able to carry with me, these were people who I may not have seen eye to eye with, but the power of our familial bonds superseded those differences, making them inconsequential. The holiday and the memories of holidays past only make the affinity and the love that I harbor for them grow in influence and nothing can take that away from me.
I always operated under the assumption that family was something that that everyone cherished until that fallacy came crashing down on top of me. As I started to make the acquaintance of people that expressed dislike, indifference or even hatred for their family it was nothing short of earth shattering for me.
And it would appear that retailers are uniquely poised to take advantage of this dysfunction, with stores open on Thanksgiving to entice people to save a couple dollars off of merchandise that was relentlessly marked up in the first place, instead of being those who are most dear to them.
Nowadays the segmentation of the family unit seems as if it is the norm, rather than it being the exception, especially when one considers the not-so subtle encroachment of retailers, maybe I am the exception in thinking that this is distastefulness at its best. Perhaps it is the concept of Thanksgiving that is being turned on its head; maybe it is the retailers that are more thankful of the prospect of turning a profit than people have of being thankful for the notion of family.