Fall tends to be the loneliest of the four seasons. School starts, temperatures drop, days shorten and suddenly you long for the freedom and warmth of the summer. In the midst of it all, the leaves take on their most passionate colors, mocking your homework-inflicted solitude and suppressed state. Halloween passes but your friends were too busy to trick-or-treat and some middle-schoolers stole your whole bowl of candy (including the bowl) which you were planning on eating the leftovers of. So, you are left trudging through two long months until the jolly buzz of Winter Break overcomes the melancholy of Autumn. Then, somewhere between a handful of TCAs one of your teachers mentions a two and a half day week. Through the fog of a sleep-deprived mind, two thoughts emerge: “Wonderful” and “Why?”. The teacher reminds you that Thanksgiving exists and you get awfully excited. Premonitions of food and sleep race through your mind for the following weeks and you crave it more and more as the day approaches.
I have a perennial uncertainty about Thanksgiving that becomes more prominent as the years progress, but I have yet to put my finger on its exact source. Perhaps, it’s the growing fluidity between the designated adult’s and kid’s tables. Maybe it’s the unpredictable status of my relationship with each of my cousins as we diverge into individuals. Or possibly it could be how these dynamic relationships of age and maturity affect what I considered Thanksgiving constants. What I have observed as a definite is that as this uncertainty cultivates, Thanksgiving loses its luster.
The structure of my family’s Thanksgiving has maintained a generally steady structure throughout the years. We arrive at my uncle’s house around 2PM and my cousins disperse among tables of food, curious aunts, and each other until dinner is ready. However, a disparity in our interactions over more recent years is apparent. Conversations alternate unenthusiastically between college applications and relationship statuses amidst frequent glances at cell phones. Board games and hide-and-seek have been replaced by infinite scrolls through redundant snapchat stories. Our affection for each other is still undeniable but increasingly less verbal.
The saving grace of Thanksgiving is dinner, specifically our pre-feast tradition which never falters in sincerity or transparency. A spoken profession of thankfulness precedes our meal and reminds us of our gratefulness for the aspects of life that predate our novel infatuations. It gives us a chance to relish in each other’s presence after months of separation by work, college, and distance. It serves as a reminder that moments spent with our family are sacred and the measures taken and miles travelled to get us together should not be in vain. It ignites a familiar intimacy lacking in the hours prior.
Through careful observation, the closest to an answer I have found for myself is that the spirit of Thanksgiving has manifested itself differently over time. We get caught up in our growing number of responsibilities and forget to acknowledge the things around us. The practice of being thankful for those things and people, which used to be a habit, now requires meaningful thought in the form of verbal discussion. My uncertainty is rooted in my straying from this concept and my hesitation in addressing the plentiful positives that coincide with the swelling stress of aging. Thanksgiving forces us to realize this and it makes us uncomfortable. But that discomfort is common ground for family to unite upon, to forget about autumnal malaise, and to come closer together.