I almost never tamper with a Thanksgiving dinner: this year, dishes remained largely as they were when we were kids. In fact, I wake up early, just as my mom and I did, and I make stuffing exactly as she taught me - without a recipe but essentially the same every single time. There’s something about the Thanksgiving meal that remains fixed in time and gloriously so: to eat a nearly identical meal over decades allows you to take stock of your life and your development - noting the ebbs and flows and considering what is in your control to change or to willfully keep as it is. There’s also a very particular sense of nostalgia in expressing gratitude for something that returns, just as it has always been. An appreciation for tradition is a unique type of thanks, a happiness for things as they are and not as they should be.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is perfect. Family events rarely even aspire to perfection. The activities that make toddlers happy often require parents to dig deep into patience; the things that grandparents long for can seem tedious to teenagers. But there is always an underlying consensus that there is something valuable in familiarity: the scents, the meals, the dress code (maybe formal, more likely uber-casual), the well-practiced schedule of events, the holiday crawl through other people’s homes and, eventually into your own bed. Perhaps more than anything, the anticipatory glee that the holidays evoke in all of us.
In our family, December has always been a multi-layered month. Our parents got married on Christmas Eve (in a crushing snowstorm) and Ellen’s birthday is on the 30th. Rather than diminish the impact of the holidays, the added celebrations only heighten the revelry - as well as the propensity to stick determinedly to a blueprint that was created years ago and which, despite changing variables, brings all of us a sense of stability. More than anything, there’s a spirit in the world, as the new year approaches, that we share a common experience, that we’ve agreed to let things go for a period of time, that we’ll at least consider a resolution to appreciate life and people more than we can muster in the daily throes of adult experience. Our parents will be married fifty-seven years this Christmas Eve and, though that event happens every year, it doesn’t grow less significant; it becomes more profound. The fact that traditions endure in the age of Post-Modern attention spans, is a testament to the significance of deliberate repetition - not because we’re scared to break a habit but, rather, because we want to reassure ourselves and our loved ones that we would walk the same path again - even if it was a struggle - in order to get us here, in this moment. This year was hard for a great many people. Our holiday wish is simply that the world might offer enough affection, enough perseverance, enough opportunity, and enough faith in ourselves that we want to do it all over again, for as many years as we can.