When I realized my next column would come out on Thanksgiving, I just knew it had to be deep and profound. This holiday will be a difficult one as we are facing a great deal of fear following the election. The usual “counting of blessings” has a cloud over it. I really wanted this article to be some ray of light. I thought and thought about that and looked deep inside for words to inspire and enlighten. Humor would be good if I could find some.
I thought, “I’ll write a poem.” That should be easy. After all, I’ve lived through a lot of Thanksgivings and Lord knows I’m full of … words. So I began where I assume most poets do, by going online to see what words actually rhyme with Thanksgiving.
Dang it, there were none. But, at that point, I was not to be deterred from my new calling. I know my readers (I love the way that after only 6 articles, you are now “my” readers—oh dear). Anyway, I thought, that’s fine, I’ll title my Thanksgiving poem “Gratitude.” Rhyme result: attitude. Not a good time for that one. Other option: platitude. Uh, no!
One last option for the title, thanks. Then I thought of how I spend Thanksgiving through New Year’s (conducting concerts and emotional binge-eating). The only rhyming word that really has relevance is Spanks. So, there you have it. You are not getting a poem about Thanksgiving and gratitude and having a good attitude about spending Black Friday shopping for Spanx so you can squeeze into that fabulous silver number you wore last New Year’s. No poem, but I’m still thankful.
Since I was online anyway, I just googled Thanksgiving. I expected to be inspired by the many writings about what this day really means, along with tips on how to live a life of gratitude. There must be many from which to choose in this “new age” of self-awareness. Instead of gratitude tips, there were pages and pages of ways not to screw up the turkey you are making for your family (coming to your house for the very first time). By a show of hands, how many of you have messed up a Thanksgiving meal? Thanks for your honesty.
Not to stereotype, but as a gay, you may recognize some of the following, parts of which may or may not be autobiographical.
It’s Thanksgiving morning. You woke up a little late and had a mimosa (or two) to help you wake up and brace yourself for the invasion of your family. You watched a little must-see Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where the big stars lip-sync the latest mini-excerpts from Broadway musicals (an advance primer on next year’s Tony’s). You remembered to pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees, because somewhere you remember Martha said that for a moist turkey, a lower temperature is better. You took that big bird out of the freezer. It was 10:30, probably time to pop that little sucker in the oven for the 1:00 pm lunch extravaganza. Then you read the cooking instructions. “For a frozen turkey, cooking time is 20 minutes per pound.” You bought a 20-pound turkey. That’s six hours?
You call some of your close friends: Whole Foods, Andronico’s, Mollie Stone. Nothing. Your “go-to” culinary BFFs let you down. “No more turkey in the inn,” they say, totally mixing holiday metaphors. Panic sets in. Time for creativity. You start checking with some of your other friends, Grub Hub, Munchery and Yelp. Who could possibly be open on this most American holiday of all, made famous and important by the likes of Norman Rockwell, Butterball and Hallmark? Finally, you order the most fabulous cornucopia of delights from the only establishments open—a myriad of ethnic delights from the far-flung corners of the earth: China, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia!
Now, how to sell this to the family? Easy. A quick text ensues.
“Dear Family, in these difficult time, we have decided that we will express our new-found concern about world affairs by departing from the traditional American Thanksgiving experience, in favor of a multi-cultural experience. Please wear a costume from a distant foreign land of your choosing—oh, and please bring a dessert from that country. See you in an hour.”
It was a Thanksgiving to remember.
All silliness aside, writing an article that appears on Thanksgiving Day is actually an amazing opportunity. I am exceedingly grateful for the incredible life I am allowed to live. I find myself humming the old southern church song, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.”
There are just too many to name. To even start the list is daunting. The list of things for which I am grateful far outweighs the things that worry, frighten and upset me. I am grateful to live in this country, even full of warts and worse. I am even more grateful to live in San Francisco, warts and all. I am grateful for my family—biological and logical (to quote Armistead)—especially the two granddaughters. I am grateful for the Chorus and my husband and Grace, our puppy dog. I am grateful to be blessed with so much.
I can’t really tell anyone else how to live a life of gratitude. It is such a personal thing. But perhaps today you’ll make your own list—after your fabulous, last time ever, multi-cultural, United Nations Family Thanksgiving Celebration.
And for all of the people who appear on that list, make sure you tell them how grateful you are that they are in your life.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season.
Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.