Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of, well, giving thanks. Most people will give thanks to the God they want to believe exists, but as an atheist, what am I to do?
Thanksgiving is always an important holiday to me. Not because of any latent religious inclinations, mind you, but rather because my family always celebrated the heck out of the day! We’d all get to together at my grandfather’s house in Kent, Washington. He was an amazing man. Born and raised in Oklahoma back during the 1920’s and 1930’s, he was a religious man, but in the “be good and honest and treat people right” kind of way. When he found out his eldest grandson was bisexual (though at the time I thought gay), it never bothered him, or if it did, he never let me see it. He made sure no one else in the family treated me any less, either.
Our family gatherings were impressive. It would be me, my mom and sister, my grandfather, my grandmother, my four uncles, their families and my one aunt and her family. After my grandmother died and my grandfather remarried, we had her side of the family join us.
A typical Thanksgiving dinner would consist of at least one turkey, a ham, a baked salmon, homemade cider, at least a couple large vats of mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, gravy served not so much in boats as in ships, a great deal of bread, cranberry sauce, plenty of drinks and many, many desserts. One year everyone brought so much dessert, in fact, that we had a pie for every single adult.
Eventually we stopped having dinner on Thanksgiving Day and moved it back a couple weekends. That way married people could celebrate with both sides of the family. It’s also quite close to my grandfather’s birthday.
After a few years we ended up with so many people at this little feast that we could no longer fit it in my grandfather’s house. Not even with three large tables and a couple kids’ tables in the garage. So we moved the celebration to my family’s church and held it there. That was big enough.
The last time I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family was in 2001. After that I moved to Palm Springs. A few years ago my grandfather died and everything moved to one of my uncle’s houses. I haven’t been back to Washington since, so I don’t know how it compares.
Even though I haven’t celebrated with my family in several years, I still have a little holiday for myself. I make up a turkey, mashed potatoes, pie, homemade bread, vegetables, all that good stuff. But since I left Seattle it’s been a meal for one. Oh, one year I had a couple friends turn up and was rather excited they’d done so, but it turned out they were only there for a few moments before they had to leave again.
This year things are a little different. I’m working on Turkey Day, so I’ll not be even starting to cook my dinner until about 6pm. That’s ok, though, cause I have a couple friends who are joining me. One is having dinner with his family earlier in the day, and doesn’t mind the idea of a second dinner. The other is working and doesn’t get off until 11pm. So the three of us should have a dandy dinner.
But this brings up a question: why? Why am I doing this aside from tradition? What am I thankful for and who am I thankful to, if not to a god?
The simple answer is I’m thankful for many things and to many people. Here’s a list.
I’m thankful for my mom for putting up with a lot of crap from me over the years, particularly during the dark days in 1995 and 1996.
I’m thankful for my dad, for providing me with a good philosophical grounding.
I’m thankful for my sister. Not for any special reason. Just because.
I’m thankful for my Grandma Irene, Grandpa Ted, Grandma Jane, Uncle Tom, Uncle Tim, Uncle Jim, Uncle Scott, Aunt Sara, Bernice and anyone and everyone else in the family for accepting me back into the fold despite certain unpleasant things in my past.
I’m thankful for my friends; Rob, Eric, Sean, Arthur, Nick, JK and anyone I’ve forgotten.
I’m thankful to live in the USA. I criticize a lot, but only cause I care and want it to be a better place.
I’m thankful to have a job. It isn’t the best, but it keeps me going.
I’m thankful to know myself much better than I ever have.
I’m thankful I’ve ever much more to learn.