Oh, Thanksgiving, how I’ve missed you

imagesTQNQMJKYBy Lisa Sugarman

I’m so excited! I’m so excited!! I’M SO EXCITED!!! I can’t wait for tomorrow! I can’t wait for tomorrow!! I CAN’T WAIT FOR TOMORROW!!!

I’m sure it’s tough to read between the lines here, but in case you couldn’t tell, I’m like practically jumping out of my skin that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And that’s because tomorrow, above all other holidays, is my absolute, positive, most favorite day of the year. It trumps everything for me. Even my birthday and Chanukah. Although this year, I’m getting a twofer because Chanukah just happens to fall directly on top of Thanksgiving. Shaaaazaaaam!

Now keep in mind, you’re only experiencing the one-dimensional version of my over-the-topedness over Thanksgiving. There are at least two more whole dimensions that my family and friends have been stomaching for the last week, so be glad you can just wad up the newspaper and toss it in a basket. They’re stuck with my crazy 24/7. And believe me, it’s a whole lotta crazy.

About a week before the Big Day, I start humming incessantly and pretty much keep it up straight through Thanksgiving dinner. (Yes, I hum even while I eat. I get that from my mother. Genetics.) It’s no picnic to be around either, just ask my kids. But I’m happy as hell, so who gives a damn?

I suppose it sounds a little kooky that one, single day that involves endless hours of food shopping, prepping, cooking, serving, and cleaning is such a big day for me. Especially when I’m the one responsible for most of the food shopping, prepping, cooking, serving and cleaning. But it is. And it always has been. In fact, I get giddier about it every year. Giddier, and of course, more nostalgic. Especially as I watch my kids grow up from little peanuts who needed a booster seat at the table, to the beautiful young women they’ve become who now actually help me shop, and prep, and cook, and serve, and clean. (It’s good to have cheap child labor.)

You see, for me, Thanksgiving is all about one thing: it’s about the people who mean the most to me being under the same roof, telling the same stupid stories, running the same Wild Turkey 5-miler, screaming for our Magicians at the Thanksgiving Day football game, and making another year’s worth of memories.

Now don’t get me wrong, my supreme love of Thanksgiving by no means cheapens my excitement for all the other holidays. I love them all, for sure. But there’s just something so special about Thanksgiving.

There’s something about this day in particular that touches me. It has a unique quality to it that none of the other holidays have. I suppose if I had to put my finger on it, I guess I’d say that what makes it so extraordinary is that it embodies everything that’s really important and beautiful in life: family, friends, food, and football. Because, to me, those are the things that matter the most. (Not necessarily in that order, though. If the Pats are on primetime on Thanksgiving Day, then football sidesteps everything else into first place.)

Now I know that there are people who prefer to host the holiday and people who would rather be hostED. And thinking of it in terms of the chicken and the egg, they’re both essential—you obviously can’t have one without the other.

For some, that means enjoying Thanksgiving on an Easy Chair, beer in hand, feet up, with a dinner plate balanced on their knee, watching the game. And those people are critical to the Thanksgiving landscape because they’re the foreground. While the others—the mixers, choppers, slicers, and servers—compose the background.

I honestly think people are born instinctively knowing which side of the table they belong on: the serving side or the receiving side. Because everyone has their sweet spot where they feel the most comfortable. And you can’t paint a true Thanksgiving scene without both sides.

Me, I was born and bred to be a host. It’s hardwired into my DNA, coming straight from the top down in my family. My grandmother hosted until she passed the baton to my mother, who eventually, once I was The Mom, passed it down to me. But not before a 10-year detour at my mother-in-law’s house until my in-laws retired to Florida. Then it was mine. Mwaaaaaaa-haaaaaa-haaaaa!

I waited for that baton for decades, frozen in the starting position with my arm extended out behind me, just waiting to feel that holiday pass into my hot little hand. Because I knew that when I finally got it, I was going to run with it as long as I had breath left in my little lungs. And that’s probably because, for me, hosting Thanksgiving was more of a coming of age than anything else. It was a marker. A milestone. It was finally my chance to say “thanks” to the people who mean the most to me for “giving” me a beautiful life.

Because I don’t know about you, but the people who end up around my Thanksgiving table are the ones who mean the most to me in this world. And I’m sure, for the most part, the same is true for you. They’re the grandmothers and the grandfathers and the mothers and the fathers and the sisters and the brothers and the aunts and the uncles and the cousins and the friends who make our life beautiful. They’re the ones who’ve seen us at our best and put up with us at our worst. For me, they’re the people who’ve watched me laugh so hard I actually wet my pants and the ones who’ve wiped away the tears on my worst of days.

That’s why this day, this Thanksgiving holiday, is the purest holiday of all. There’s no Biblical basis to it whatsoever. There are no rites or rituals. And no presents to buy. Only the traditions born from each family that mark the way they celebrate this day—a day that’s designed to let us relish in everything that’s good, and right, and bountiful and oval and pig skinned.

Thanksgiving produces an organic kind of happiness—a happiness that comes from the simple enjoyment of people, of food, and of football. And if you happen to be in my house, a joy that comes from endless hours of cutthroat Boggle. It’s like steel-cage-match Boggle—a modern version of gladiator combat, where throats are slit and bodies are disemboweled all in the name of sport. What can I say, it’s our tradition.

But most of all, Thanksgiving is a day designed to celebrate the essence of life. Which, in case you didn’t already know, are people. Because none of us walks through life alone. We all have partners along the way—people who steady us and keep us on course, people who pick us up when we fall, and people who lead us when we’re lost. And it’s these people who make the journey worth taking.

So as you sit around your tables tomorrow and look at the faces around you, take a minute, and thank them for helping to give you a beautiful life. I know I will. Then pass the potatoes, will you?

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