Thanksgiving was my family holiday, growing up. My grandmother threw a huge thanksgiving in San Antonio, that sundry and all descended on; when she got to ill to carry on, it moved to my uncles in Dallas. I remember going when I was a tiny tot, flying on the jelly bean braniff planes from Newark to San Antonio; I remember going in the 80s, particularly the last trip before my grandmother died and the first thereafter. I don't remember how we celebrated when we stopped going; I was in high school, and family tradition fell by the wayside and, honestly, I was done with my family and ready to run to the horizon and make my own life, escaping from the fucked up hell my mother had made of hers.
But I found, when I went to Santa Cruz, that Thanksgiving was touched with sadness. It was a family holiday, but I was alone, without family. The years I spent with friends were good, and I have some striking good memorieS: the thanksgiving with B, with the vivid sense of the emptiness of the roads of cupertino in midafternoon; the thanksgiving in Tahoe with J, with his mother's sweet potato pie and, I remember, his son falling asleep on my shoulder during Toy Story 2. And yet, there was always a sense of desparation; I must do something, because it's a family holiday, and I don't want to be alone.
Eventually I reconnected with my family in Texas, and I've gone out there a bunch of times, but not for the last several years; travelling on Thanksgiving is a pain, and between school and limited vacation days, the last couple of years, it just hasn't happened. (We're going out there for Christmas, this year). Last year, I tried to cook a ham, but mostly failed, essentially because I didn't cook it long enough; thick cuts of meat take for fucking ever to cook. (Is it done yet? J- asked. He was hungry. It was late. I understimated cooking time. We ended up eating partially cold ham.)
Today was a good day.
I woke up early (for me), had some coffee, and went to the parade. My position sucked; I didn't get up early enough to get a good viewing. I was next to, on one side, the rudest, biggest asshole i've ever encountered in a crowd (and i've been in many); it was like he was self-consciously evil, which I just am not used to seeing in another man. On the other side of me, though, was a man, with his wife and kid, who spent the entire time he was there trying to communicate excitement to his kid; he was awesome to listen to. (I told him so, when he left; he thanked me. It was a sweet moment). The pictures I took mostly sucked; the lighting was bad and the scaffolding was in the way. But it was fun to hang out in the middle of a crowd of people who were exited; every balloon caused an excited murmur in the crowd, and while we could not see anything but the balloons, that was enough.
The rest of the day was a potluck hosted by a friend of ours (who we met, of all ridiculous things, at the terrible new student orientation, and who will shortly be DMing a D&D game). It was ten people: him. his mother, his sister, her girlfriend; J- and me; two women from his masters' program; and two friends of one of theirs, visiting from their masters programs at American University. [Interjection, I'm drunk, and it's hard to type. It's been a long time since it's been this hard to type. Sadly, i'm too good a typist to produce a traditional style drunk husiary, but please imagine I'm lindze or a younger BadDoggie and you'll get it.] We had the stereotypical: turducken (this is now an american stereotype), mashed potatos, cranberry sauce (i got many compliments), macaroni and cheese, jalapeno poppers (wrapped in bacon!), wine, beer, ouzo, pumpkin pie, fantastic serbian cherry pastries ...
and lots of good conversation and drinking with new friends. It was a good day.
But it's thanksgiving, and thanksgiving isn't just about food and drink and friends and family.
Who won the Cowboys game? How about the Packers game?
Thanksgiving is a wierd holiday in the American pantheon; much like Christmas, it's become unmoored, torn away from its traditional roots, which remain in name but not in practice. In theory, Thanksgiving is a day about, well, giving thanks for survival, for the things which enrich our lives and allow us to carry on for another year. (In practice, modern Thanksgiving is a paean to gluttony and to family). In theory, it should be cause for reflection. Scalzi has done a great job of this, over the last month; a job, I think, worth emulating.
What am I thankful for?
At the moment I'm thankful for the great happiness brought by alcohol (and other drugs); it's ability to relax, and soothe, and bring joy, has amazed me for almost twenty-one years now. But that's a transient thing, tied to my current state, and while it's a valid and worthwhile thing, it's also kinda shallow.
I'm thankful for my husband. As a child, I believed in an image of romantic love which was easy, and I have to say, marriage requires work; work to be the person I want to be, work to be the person my husband wants me to be, work to get through the points of my failure and the points of his failure ... but it's totally fucking worth it to have someone who loves you and whom you love, who together you can dream great dreams and can hold each other when the world is a pain in the ass.
I'm thankful for my husband's family; they have accepted me as one of their own, and that was far from guaranteed. Fuck, we're a gay couple; it's hardly uncommon for one or the other family of a gay couple to simply not accept the situation, and yet that is not our world. My husband's family are great people, and I'm happy to know them.
I'm thankful for my own biological family. My mother's dead, and my stepfather and stepsister are gone beyond any ability of mine to reach them, and my stepbrother is in prison where he belongs, but my mother's biological family are, by and large, accepting liberal Texans, and I'm happy to know them. :)
I'm thankful for my friends, who are the family of my choosing. The ones I've known the longest - the ones I knew before I came out - continue to amaze me; I feel like I lied to them for the better part of a decade, even if it was by ommission, and they've forgiven me, and we remain strongly in each others' lives. The ones i've come to know seince then ... look, I was the social outcast misfit nerd (jackass snob) kid in high school who had no friends and couldn't understnad social cues; the fact that I can mix with a wide variety of people, and love them, and find joy in their presence and in their smiles, never ceasses to amaze me. In some ways I'm still desparately needy, and that's an impediment to anything I do socially; and yet in other ways, I'm simply in awe of the beauty of the people of the world and my ability to connect with them and find joy in their presence, something I just didn't have for much of my life.
I'm thankful for learning that I had within me the power to connect with people.
I'm thankful that I have the skill to look at the world and learn from it. I passed the California bar exam. On the first try. After going to law school for four years while working full time (and getting promoted). A lot of that was luck; but a lot of that was due to my ability to absorb information and apply it to similar circumstances - an ability which is not a reward, and not the result of hard work, but the result of luck or happenstance. I am immensely grateful that I have that powe.r
I am thankful that I live in a time and place where being gay is socially acceptable.
I am thankful that I can see and experience beauty in the world.
I am thankful that, many years ago, I took a work study job as a computer lab assistant and that this led me into the world of computer programming, which meant that I could get the job I have now. This isn't where I want to be forever; indeed, law school was an attempt to find a path to do something new. But at the same time, it's comfortable, and it's paying the bills, and it lets me surround myself with a bunch of people who treat me as their equals --- fuck, half the time I don't think I deserve it, right? I mean, I'm not dumb, but it still amazes me that I can treat with people who are clearly very smart (or, fuck, that I am one of less than 1% of the people of California who have passed the bar exam) and meet them on equal ground.
I'm thankful that my employer thought highly enough of me to negotiate a change in venue that allows me ot keep the same job and work from 3000 miles away.
I'm thankful that, many, many years ago, someone pulled strings to get me declared financially independent of my parents, allowing me to go to UC Santa Cruz.
I am more thankful than I can imagine describing that a friend once offered me ecstacy, and my life changed forever.
I am, at the end of the day, fucking thankful to be alive.
The world is a beautiful place. Sometimes it's hard to see it. Sometimes the worries or the fears of the day are so crushing that it's impossible to see beyond them.
The sun comes up, the wind blows, the crowds crest above the sky, and for a moment there is peace, and beauty, and joy.
Happy thanksgiving to you, my friends, my tribe.
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