It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, so I feel like I should share my thoughts on Thanksgiving past and present.
Growing up, I remember that we celebrated Thanksgiving, but I don’t remember it being a big deal. There was always a lot of food and a lot of people, but we grew up with a big family so every holiday was filled with a lot of food and a lot of people. Instead, I remember Thanksgiving as being the holiday that you had to get through before you could really prepare for the biggie. At our house, Christmas was what you waited all year long for, and you couldn’t decorate or prepare for Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving.
As an adult, Thanksgiving, for the most part, has been good. It usually means a long weekend which is always fantastic. Early in our marriage, my husband and I decided that we could not afford to go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it was a simple decision: he and I would spend Thanksgiving together, alone, and then we would go to Texas for the BIG holiday. Our Thanksgiving weekends were enjoyable because they gave us the opportunity to have new experiences. One year, we went to Ashville, NC. One year we went to Vegas. (We obviously had a little more spending money that year.) One year we served Marines at a chapel on base. A couple of years, we actually got to go home for Thanksgiving and then again for Christmas. (Those years were the best!) One year, we weren’t sure if my guy would even make it back for the Thanksgiving holiday, so we didn’t plan anything. (He made it back very late Thanksgiving night; no special meal was served. We got up early and drove down to Atlanta the next day.) One of our favorite Thanksgivings was when we ended up in Live Oka, FL with good friends and their family. For so many years, my guy was deployed, so we just skipped over the holiday. Our holiday weekends varied, and when we were together, they were great, but just like when I was a kid…it was always the holiday that you needed to get through to get to Christmas.
This year felt different.
Because we don’t get to go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, I really wanted to lean-into the Thanksgiving holiday. I wanted to hone in on my gratitude. I wanted to focus on spending time with my friends, and I wanted my husband and I to have a wonderful holiday so that we could look back on it as a good one and not one that we were just trying to get through so we could prepare for the next one. Maybe I am doing a better job of living in the present, or maybe I am just not as excited as I usually am about Christmas. Whatever the case may be, I put a lot of positive energy into focusing on Thanksgiving, and it was a wonderful experience.
Because of Coronavirus, and the precautions that we have been taking to preserve the health and wellness of our community, we knew that we could plan a little something, but it would have to be something that ensured our safety. Fortunately, in Okinawa, November’s weather is perfect for outdoor dining. We also live on a tiny street that we could shut off to traffic because everyone on the street was either traveling or joining us. We rented tables and chairs, and we set them up with spacing between each table. We also limited the seating at each table. By having so much space to work with, perfect weather, masks, sanitizer, and a small group of friends, we were able to create a very special, and very safe dinner. Everyone pitched in, and we had turkey, ham, brisket, and tamales. We had more sides than I could count, and the bread…oh the bread. We had traditional rolls, corn bread, pumpkin bread, wheat bread, and two types focaccia. I think everyone brought bread. I guess that I am not the only bread-lover on the street.
When we were done, we loaded up boxes and boxes of food and our friends drove the extra food to base to give to the young Marines. Most people love Thanksgiving leftovers, but there were no leftovers. All of the extra food went to the barracks, and we all loved the idea of sharing.
This year has obviously been a challenging one. So many people have been sick or have died. Families have been devastated by the loss of a loved one. Many people have been living in fear of getting sick or having a loved one become ill. My heart breaks each time I think about it, but this past Thanksgiving, for a few hours as we had a long, leisurely meal, I didn’t think of a pandemic. I didn’t sit in sadness because I miss my family. I didn’t consider the time and experiences that we have lost. Instead, I focused on my friends; I focused on their stories. I focused on the beautiful meal, and I focused on my blessings, and it was a good day.
I know that I will remember this Thanksgiving as being a good one. I hope that you can look back on your day and that you can find the blessings within it because if we look hard enough, we WILL find the BLESSINGS.