It’s the day before Thanksgiving here in the States. In theory we celebrate this day because we’re proud of our national heritage, the courage and tenacity of the Pilgrims, the Native Americans saving our early ancestors from starving to death. In most school plays it looks like a really fun picnic that the Native Americans crashed, bringing corn, they call it “Maize.” (Sorry children of the 70’s, this phrase is embedded deeply in my psyche now.)
I find that lately I don’t care much for Thanksgiving. I’d love to say that I don’t care for it because of the death and disease the Europeans brought to this country or that Thanksgiving has become less a celebration of family and more an excuse to binge in a culture that is already too heavy or that it precedes Black Friday, another excuse to binge in a culture that is already too heavy.
But those are just my inner cranky old lady reasons. Those are the “get those kids off my lawn” reasons. Because you know that the cranky old lady was cranky way before you ever went near her lawn, right? That old lady was probably cranky because life had gotten complicated and strange, because her children didn’t call enough, because after 50 years of marriage she finally realized that her husband was just never going to put the seat down on the toilet or close his mouth when he chews. It was not the introduction of children on her lawn. She didn’t give a damn about that lawn anyway.
Except, that maybe that green lawn was all she had most days. It was the most control she had in her long life. Clipping the edges, planting the flowerbed, fertilizing using the best possible ingredients, those were things she could do. Those were things she knew how to control.
For Halloween I put on a dress I’ve had in my closet for a lot of years. It was my grandmother’s dress. Then I put this scraggly black wig on and more makeup than I ever wear in real life. I picked up a bag my daughter uses for sleepovers, the one we got from the Salvation Army a couple of years ago. As I picked it up I suddenly clutched it to my heart. “Mine,” I thought. My son asked who I was and I said, “I’m that cranky old lady who lives down the road from you.” He laughed. I laughed too but I’ll tell you, I felt just like that cranky old lady. I identified with her. I placed a demented scowl on my face and it was not tough to muster, lemme tell you. I’m not overly fond of that cranky old lady I carry around inside of me but I understand her. I get her.
So, back to Thanksgiving and the kids on my lawn. I could meander along through each Turkey gobbling holiday thinking that my general crankiness is due to the news of the most recent atrocities or my expanding waistline or the effort it takes to make a feast only to see it decimated in what can only be described as hoard of locusts but that would only be scratching the surface. Yes, all of the “kids get off my lawn” reasons are valid and real. I don’t mean in any way at all to discount the weirdness that is the American Thanksgiving/Black Friday holiday. I think instead though, what is striking to me is the decision I make to put on the scowl, to clutch at the handbag, to yell out the front door at the kids playing ball on my lawn. I’m too quick to move to angst. I’m too eager to have a bad time, to criticize, to blame. It’s a knee jerk reaction at best now. There is absolutely a place for angst and criticism and even for my inner cranky old lady. My aim, this Thanksgiving, is to give her a day off and see what it feels like to cultivate instead a feeling of gratitude, joy, feasting, release. I think it can be done, I think I can do it. But I’m keeping the handbag close, just in case.