Last year for Thanksgiving I was in a foreign country, surrounded by a motley assortment of Europeans and Americans. Only the American expats really had any clue as to what was going on and that’s not saying much as we tried to salvage and persuade the others to the merits of a completely American tradition. It seemed strange to celebrate our holiday of giving thanks in a completely different country with mocking British and perplexed Germans and ribald French, but it was also a necessary stab at familiarity that we all desperately desired for at the beginning of an odd holiday season.
This year, I was in my warm, family home in the middle of my hilly, wind-swept plains, sitting around a family dinner table with all of the familiar foods in front of me and all my longed for company at my side. And I found myself feeling bland and wistful and with little connection to all the live faces around me. It almost seemed a little unfair that I was the one enjoying this moment and not the Jennifer of last year who was homesick for parades, green bean casserole, and family.
In the multiverse of reality somehow I wish I could reach through the fabric and just give that girl a hug. That girl from last year. Tell her to be thankful for where she is and where she’s at….Have her tell me to be thankful for mine too. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a third Jennifer from the next Thanksgiving in a completely different place than France or home, reaching back and giving us both a hearty smack on the backs and saying…”Hey, you found it! The perfect thankful experience, now please come join me in all my fun. You had no idea what you had in store…”
I don’t know if half of that multiverse shite is real or not, but somehow, the infinite mirror in every direction of Thanksgivings is kind of reassuring. And I can look backwards and forwards to all the ones where I’m sitting with my family in our old familiar house on an otherwise dreary gray sort of day, and immediately, no matter how ordinary they felt at the time, they are immediately special, shiny gems of a day. And I could cry for the completeness of it all. I only wish I could actually reach back and tell my mom how much I appreciated getting to eat my food across the table from her, and look to the left at my dad and tell him how good it was getting to see him in person rather than a frozen Skype screen.
That’s the trouble with all this introspective reflective crap, you can look backwards and forwards at all your experiences, but that still doesn’t allow you to really experience them. It doesn’t give you the agency that you have now in this true and single moment to go and hug those people and imbibe them with the same sudden feelings of warmth and love you’re suddenly realizing. And then when you step outside of that multi-mirror complex and back into this single powerful moment of agency, you suddenly lose the armor of perspective and you lose the immediacy of running and telling those people how much you care and ultimately, the vulnerability of now makes it all seem like too much trouble.
So you say, eh, and wander aimlessly back to the kitchen, knowing full-well that any leftovers you find while rummaging around in the fridge will be far too old to eat by now, and next year’s are so perilously far away.