Even though I really like the idea of Thanksgiving Day – people taking the time to be grateful amongst friends and family while engorging themselves on traditional foods – I have chosen to opt out of celebrating it for most of my life. However, this year it looks like I’m opting in.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was never a big holiday in our family.  Sure, we had turkey, but that really was the extent of it.  Dinner was the same as any other day with  mom eating in the kitchen by herself and  dad in his chair in front of the TV. My brother and I would sit at the table with our necks craned so we could see the TV ourselves.  No big extended family, no special china, no grace, no Kennedyesque touch football games in the front yard.  Just turkey, mashed potatoes and canned cranberry sauce.

After my folks died and with no Thanksgiving invitations forthcoming from my brother, I tried to opt out of the holiday, but instead I became the designated orphan for my work colleagues and friends.  I know they were trying to be thoughtful and generous by including me, but mostly they were painful affairs which left me feeling sad about my own lack of family or happy Thanksgiving memories.

Then there were a few years when I was happily left to my own devices. I enjoyed taking long walks through the deserted  streets of  downtown Oakland and San Francisco.  I loved the lonely spaciousness of those streets and buildings that normal vibrate with the rushing of people and cars. And after my solo walk, I  would take the opportunity to make food for which I was truly grateful,- things like lasagna and tacos.  I never liked turkey all that much so the only nod to traditional Thanksgiving was to give the cats a can of turkey cat food.

For the last decade or so, the Boyfriend and I do a simple Thanksgiving here at my house.  We  do it mostly because he loves turkey and all the resulting leftovers.  Being a vegetarian, this is non-issue for me. But, I do enjoy stuffing and sweet potatoes.  And if it makes him happy, that is fine with me.

Tomorrow, however, the Boyfriend and I will be having dinner at Frank’s house with a bunch of Frank’s other orphan friends.  And I’m actually looking forward to it despite my usual nervousness about social situations. Frank has a wide variety of interesting friends with tales of wild rivers and world travels, so hopefully if  smile, listen attentively, and ask a lot of questions no one will necessarily notice that I’m rather dull.

Since I’ll actually be partaking in the holiday tomorrow, I thought I might do a traditional Thanksgiving blog post and list, in no particular order, many of the things for which I am grateful.

  • I am grateful for all the furry creatures, past, present and future in my life. No matter how I am feeling about myself or my day, they never fail to make me smile.  I can’t imagine a life that isn’t shared without at least one four-legged creature.
  • I am grateful for my job. Not only do I work for a company that I do believe is dedicated to helping people, but I am surrounded by people who are (relatively) drama-free and make me laugh every day.
  • I am grateful I have a dentist who is free and easy with both the bad puns and the nitrous.
  • I am grateful for my cozy home and the kind people who rent it to me whom I consider friends.
  • I am grateful for the Buddha, Dharma and the rag-tag circle of ex-Kadampas that are my Sangha.
  • I am grateful for Trader Joe’s new non-fat chocolate yogurt. Acidophilus never tasted so good.
  • I am grateful for the Boyfriend. Even though he misses the mark sometimes on being emotionally nurturing, I know he loves me and would never allow the oil in my car to get too low, or fail to take the cans down to the curb.
  • I am grateful to my parents. I’ve grown up to be a half way decent human being with some integrity and compassion which proves they did something right.
  • I am grateful to the internet and WordPress that make it possible for me to freely share my words and thoughts with some truly wonderful people across the world.  For those of you who read and respond to my nonsense, thank you.  It means a lot to me.

9 responses »

  1. Many thanks for your writing, but do we need to kill birds to satisfy our taste buds, to celebrate, to socialize with other humans. Is destroying our fellow creatures the way to give thanks?
    We live in Montreal, but L.A. is also my home town. I was at UC Davis once.
    All the very best to everyone,

  2. I myself was toying with the idea of the old traditional Thanksgiving post, glad to see I’m not the only one.

    I’m still wrestling with the idea in my head.

    I do hope you all havea good day though; and be thankful for whatever you choose, in whichever way you choose, for friends, family, and life itself.

  3. Very nice post….Have a nice day with friends. Tell Frank we are all thinking of him and wishing him well…. It is weird but I some how feel like I know him. Life is so strange I will be with my 94 yr old Mother, who is not sure what Thanksgiving is, she some times does not remember me. But I, like you, am thankful for many things. Thanks for reminding me to look deeper.

  4. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. My husband and I spent the day with friends, too. We are all Thanksgiving Orphans, by choice mostly since our families are quite a distance away and we prefer not to travel over this particular holiday. Besides, it’s more fun with friends. No drama llama to ruin the dinner.

    Thank you for sharing your words and wisdoms and life with us. 🙂 I don’t always comment, but I do read.

  5. Nice list, LB. I’ve been to a number of orphan Thanksgivings here in the bay area (my family, too, is far away) and it’s a wonderful institution in its own right. We had five people over this year, with two patient, attentive dogs waiting at ankle level for whatever might make it down to them. It was a good time; Thanksgive is one of the better holidays.

  6. We don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK (or in Australia, where I now live), so that’s one family holiday that I have no guilt or regrets about. I’m thankful for that 😉

    But I like your list of things you’re thankful for and I hope the dinner at Frank’s was fun.

    By the way, you are definitely not dull. 🙂

  7. Schloime – I’m glad you enjoy my writing. Thank you.

    I don’t think Thanksgiving is necessarily unique in using meat as a way of celebrating. People use food as a social ritual – whether its just friends getting together or a holiday like Thanksgiving where the meal is the main focus. If people weren’t eating turkey, they would be eating some other kind of creature. Personally, I don’t eat meat, but that’s my choice coming from my own personal convictions. And while I can control what I put in my mouth, or serve at my house, I’m not going to judge others on their choice to eat meat. (Well, maybe just a little . . .)

    Adam – Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I read your T-day post and while I’m not a huge fan of Xmas music, I thought your list was pretty good.

    Debbie – Thank you. I know with your mother’s age and condition the holidays may be sadly poignant for you this year.

    Dinner at Frank’s was indeed very nice. While he has a very diverse circle of friends, what we had in common was a love of Frank and his love for us.

    AnotherQ – Aww, you make me smile too. 🙂

    Julian – since I know this makes you blush – muuuuuahh!

    Robin – Drama llama!? I love it. Thank you for the kind words. Likewise, I stop by your blog and marvel at your beautiful photographs, but I’m usually left speechless, so forgive my lack of comments.

    Omsbud – Having a whole room filled with holiday orphans is much more fun than being the designated orphan at someone else’s family gathering. And yes, all holidays are a little brighter with a dog or two under the table eagerly awaiting their little presents of table scraps.

    Trucie -As others have said above, Thanksgiving is one of the less insufferable holidays, if done correctly. But, if you have a family full of drama llamas (love it!), you’re right, you’re lucky you get to skip this one.

    Oh, and thank you.

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