My family is pretty spread out these days, so we don’t have a big Thanksgiving gathering anymore. So rather than looking forward to my sisters and their husbands all descending upon my mother’s house in eager anticipation, instead I warm up a dish of leftover nostalgia and have that while I spend Thanksgiving day with my in-laws.
Sometimes I’m sad that things aren’t how they were anymore. But then I think of that word—“anymore.” It is a bittersweet one, sure, but often we only take on the bitter, forgetting the sweetness. The fact that I had big, weird Thanksgivings with my family is amazing in and of itself. We had homemade food and homemade scavenger hunts and homegrown trips to the automatic carwash, where we’d pile in the back of a truck and experience frigid, unforgettable bedlam. All that and, of course, the turkey.
One of my least favorite memories was when the learned professor would come over. This man (sort of) was an old family friend, and he’d drag his wife and an old projector to our house for the day’s festivities. He spoke in a voice all nasal, and would spew out facts where jokes belonged—it was all he knew. We’d begin a food fight and he’d compare it from afar to the Croatian War for Freedom or some other inane thing from some bygone age. He’d correct grammar and cheat at Scrabble too, but the thing he’d do that was most maddening (for me at least; my siblings loved and encouraged him in it) was to set up his projector in the vacant sitting room and call me in to go over pictures with him. He’d nasal on for hours scrolling through pictures of his most recent trip to the UK and drone on about all it entailed. When I’d find ways to excuse myself, one of my mischievous sisters would bar my path or undermine my excuse: “Here, boys, I brought you some drinks. Matt, no need to leave to get a drink, there’s enough here for hours! Keep learning! Professor, carry on.” Flummoxed, I’d resume my position as reluctant pupil.
I still giggle at the thought of those special years. Those were the days, I think absently. But then I catch myself becoming a person who doesn’t jump into the food fight for afar thoughts of the way Croatia used to be. I set up my projector in the vacant sitting room, away from everyone, and I gaze longingly at slides depicting the way things were, without considering that those things will never be again. And all while the slides of tomorrow are being made in the adjacent room without me.
Thanksgiving may not be all it was. But it is all it is for today, and that is all it can be expected to be.
So I’m thankful for the past—the anymores, each and every one. But I’m also so very grateful for the here and nows, and the way in which we’ll meld the two with food fights and car washes and family and all the precious rest.