Thanksgiving Is Shifting, in an Earthquaky Way

I don’t want to write about Thanksgiving. Our house has always been filled with more relatives stuffed into the dining room than anyone thought possible.

Furniture pushed against the walls to make room for one, two, three, four folding tables and chairs. People drinking pre-dinner Clicquot champagne or Budweisers in the sunroom, kitchen, living room, den while the dining room remained pristine, her lady waiting to be served.

A cooler with beer, wine, and Cokes is on the deck. Coats and purses are piled high on our bed. Fingers are crossed that the old septic system will hold up for another holiday year.

Women dress up. Men go casual. Children go wild.

I bring out the Tiffany champagne flutes for the in-laws and the Fred Flintstone jelly glasses for the sisters. There’s something so celebratory about drinking good French burgundy in 1960s gas station glasses. It makes us feel so lucky for what we have while remembering where we came from.

Last year was sad. A new house ideal for entertaining but no people because of COVID. Just a couple of Zoom chats and not even cooking a turkey because my husband can’t swallow it.

This year feels even sadder. My son is in LA for a new job. My brother and his family are staying close to home. His daughter is down to 90 pounds, wasting away from drug and alcohol addiction. Are they afraid to leave her? Too ashamed to bring her? I don’t know. They won’t talk about “the situation.” My heart aches.

My brother-in-law and his wife have gone to Florida to visit friends. She can be fussy and opinionated, especially after two glasses of wine, as can I.

And just now, a text from my dearest sister, who works at Mass General Hospital. “Been exposed to COIVD. Getting tested. Will be so SAD if I have to stay home alone.”

We’re down to so few people I may not even have to put an extra leaf in the dining room table, nor will I have to take the tags off the new folding chairs. We don’t need extras this year.

Will I ever be able to fill this new house with the family tradition of chaos and laughter?

Are people reluctant to come because they feel uncomfortable around my husband and his worsening Parkinsonian symptoms?

Do people want quieter and more predictable over our chaos?

I have to stop torturing myself with these unknowable questions. Traditions are no longer fixed and reverent.

· Easter hats and corsages.

· Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad on the 4th of July.

· Real Christmas trees.

· Always giving turnips another chance.

· Wearing velvet on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

· Fish on Fridays, franks on Saturday, pot roast on Sunday.

· Matinees on Saturday winter afternoons.

· Baking all day the day before Thanksgiving.

Everything is shifting, in an earthquaky kind of way. Time to sway, let go of rigid expectations.

As I roll out the dough for the apple pies, I wonder:

Can we go back to always being together, no matter what?

Can we be here for one another for fun times, not just the crises?

Can I stuff my sadness into the cooler we won’t be needing tomorrow and fill our small gathering with a boisterous, delicious love?

Can I emit love rays to those who are traditionally with us, signaling my enduring gratitude for what we had before and may again?

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Lois Kelly

Lois Kelly

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Writer/artist, co-founder of “Rebels at Work.” Most happy in the wilder-ness of people, ideas and nature.