Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The other first Thanksgiving
I can't believe it's been a year since the last good lookin' bird. Last year, Thanksgiving was all about gathering the other orphans far from their families and reminding them they are loved. This year, well, they have to fend for themselves because we're back in the fold. Sorry ya'll. I'll mail some leftovers.
This year, it's all about extended family for us. No, make that two extended families. First my family and then hers. It's like a bad stovetop stuffing commercial. But there will be Aunt Josephine's wicked corn fritters, and many other classic northeastern recipes involving cream, butter and shortening.
And believe it or not, I'm closer to the Original Thanksgiving than ever before. That's right: Jacksonville, 1564. Fort Caroline was built shortly after the French sat down to a meal with the Timucua Indians.
I really don't why we cling to the vision of the first thanksgiving, given what I know about the history of the US. It's not exactly a history of delicious meals with Native Americans and Europeans sitting at the same table, is it?
Maybe giving thanks is as close to atonement that European-Americans can get. Maybe today's abundance will wash over the harsh memories of yesterday. Maybe it's about forgiveness - the hardest kind: forgiving our culture, our ancestors, and our ourselves.
The deeper history of thanksgiving doesn't involve projecting our indigenous selves onto other people who have been oppressed by colonization. Harvest festivals have been around since there was grain to reap. In its original and most basic context, thanksgiving is about celebrating the fruits of a hard year's work. For my ancestors, it's also time to bundle up and play dice on a dirt floor for three months while it snows outside.
So, thanks to everyone in my life. Thanks for showing up for me this year. Thanks for the courage it takes to be real. And thanks for letting me be real too.