Families will soon be flocking like ‘bird of a feather’ do at this time of the year. It’s Thanksgiving, what O. Henry called “the one day that is purely American.” The holiday celebrates the lull in frontier hostilities, when our Forefathers temporarily put down their muskets and powder horns and gnawed on some turkey legs and a few ears of corn—a dish later to be known as Garlic Cheese Grits.
The Native Americans and new immigrants smiled at each other; shared the 17th century version of Green Bean Casserole; and licked their fingers instead of their wounds. In lieu of dish washing, the Indians taught the settlers to play Frisbee with the pottery plates. This would lead to the development of paper dishware. For the time being, all were full and happy. Life could be good.
Four hundred years later, Thanksgiving might still be considered a “temporary ceasefire.” It’s a pause during which families members accept each other—warts and all—for an entire day.
Thanksgiving is also:
. . . a time to puddle gravy atop mashed potatoes—a dish that invariably runs out before the Brussel sprouts do;
. . . a time for Avon-perfumed grandmothers to embrace tattooed, nose-pierced teenagers;
. . . a time for artery-bustin’ 1950’s casseroles swirling with sour cream and Campbell’s Soup. . . and sweet potatoes made even sweeter with tiny marshmallow dotting the top;
. . . a day to embrace our diversity and accept our gluten-free brethren, lime-jello-toting aunt, and those who arrive with a Bush-Cheney sticker still attached to their bumper;
. . . a day for youngsters to learn the sacred family traditions from the storytellers, including what does—and does not—go into the turkey dressing;
. . . a time to share your family with those separated from their own, for whatever reason;
. . . a time to remember friends and loved ones with whom we once broke bread, shared laughter, and raised new generations;
. . . and, yes, a time to give thanks for our free and bountiful land, for good times shared and bad times survived.
So why did I label this meandering the Yoga of Thanksgiving? Because it takes some bending and twisting to pull off this day. It’s not our normal way of life. We don’t usually eat this much, deal with so many family members at once, or try this hard to make things work. Thanksgiving is not only physical, it’s also a mental and spiritual exercise, one that stretches the heart and conditions the soul for the next family reunion—or perhaps eternity itself.
It’s a complex holiday. That’s why we observe it just once a year and follow up with a nap and football game.