I grew up in a vegetarian family in the 70s, with a European mother who had no connection to Thanksgiving and a father who believed it commemorated the genocide of the Native Americans.
As a kid, I didn’t want the turkey, but I definitely wanted to fit in. Returning to school after the four day holiday, I would listen to my friends talk about the food and the fun they’d had with their families, and I would just nod like I knew what they were talking about.
It only got worse when I got older and was actually invited to these coveted affairs. I would awkwardly need to explain my diet and its restrictions while under the scrutiny of someone else’s family.
Then I politely began to decline these invitations. For me, Thanksgiving had become a holiday that reinforced my oddity, where questions like “You mean you’ve never eaten meat?” wore down my cheerful reserve.
But reflecting on it now, after wonderful meal with friends and their families, where my diet is not unusual, I realize that my parents missed out on an opportunity to talk about gratitude when they ignored this holiday.
It has taken me the better part of my adult life to teach myself about gratitude, and not just thankfulness for all the good in my life, but also the acknowledgment of the struggles and challenges.
It is easy to find gratitude for our blessings, and I completely believe we need more of this everyday for our spirits and the good of all around us.
But it’s not always easy to be thankful for our problems, our mistakes, or our shortcomings.
I don’t know how we are supposed to do this, but I appreciate the fact that tomorrow I will have another day to try.
So, today I am humbled by the blessings of food and shelter and love and companionship. I am also grateful for second and third chances and arguments that lead to tears. I am grateful for failures and risks that never paid off and for dreams that never came true. I am even grateful for awkward Thanksgivings and answering the question “You mean you’ve never eaten meat?”
Because if I can be grateful for all these things, then I can also be grateful for my parents who didn’t see the value of Thanksgiving.