What a strange time we are living in. With Thanksgiving upon us I am sure many of you are unable to spend time with family and friends under these circumstances. I thought one idea is to fire up Zoom and have a virtual meal together. Imagine putting smartphones, iPads, tables and laptops around the table so that each family member can dial in for dinner. While not the same dynamics as face-to-face at least this allows everyone to be together safely.
After the imagination episode I started reflecting on past Thanksgivings. Two came to mind, one as a teenager and the other while living in New York City.
Let’s start with the teenager. My Mom was not much of a cook, but she was able to pull off a good turkey with the help of Dad. The gathering consisted of our family of five, three boys, Mom and Dad and both sets of grandparents. But it didn’t stop there, Mom was fond of inviting other non-family members. We were part of an international volunteer community and often times there would be people we either knew or didn’t know from countries all over the world. Some that come to mind, Korea, Japan, Ghana, France among others. My brothers and I thought is was cool that we had people from all over the world coming to our home for thanksgiving. Our friends, in this mostly white collar, middle to upper middle class neighborhood kept it traditional.
We accepted this, our grandparents did not. They were of a different generation and could not understand why anyone would open their home to strangers. I remember before the two Korean gals showed up one year my Mom and her Mom (my Grandma) got in an argument ending with my Grandma in a rare fit of anger saying, “Why are you inviting the orientals, they don’t know what thanksgiving is?” Mom’s follow up, “Thanksgiving is about giving and opening our hearts to anyone. If you don’t know that by now you’ll never understand.” What a comeback. I now know that there are certain generations of people with their entrenched view of the world that can never be changed. This was one such interaction. I also now know that Mom did this for our benefit and am forever grateful to have witnessed and experienced those Thanksgivings.
The New York City Thanksgiving was a different experience. I was living in Greenwich Village during most of my eight years. If anyone knows the village it has been and still is home to an eclectic cast of characters including writers, actors, painters and musicians. At the time I was an struggling actor. A friend of mine, a fellow Minnesotan and writer and I used to spend time with an eclectic group of creative types.
One member of the group was a former talk show host formerly married to a well known actor. She lived a few blocks away in a third story spacious apartment. For some reason (maybe because of our Minnesota nice sensibilities) she took to me and my friend. We would often meet for lunches, dinners and coffee. Often she would bring an entourage of artists of all walks of life, which we got to now quite well over the years. Every year she would invite us to Thanksgiving at her place. And every year it was a spread of some of the most delicious food I had ever tasted, prepared by our host and a few of her professional chef friends.
What struck me most was that while sitting around the table I would look at everyone and be reminded of a Woody Allen movie. There was the famous clothing designer gay couple, the well known author, the ballet dancer and her doting husband, the working actor I had seen on countless television shows, the painter and all the other characters. As a Minnesotan having grown up in Minneapolis, if you were to tell me I would someday be sitting at a table eating dinner with such creative and open minded people I would have said you were crazy. I had to pinch myself on occasion.
These precious times I had, to this day have an affect on how I view the world and people in it. Opening you hearts and minds to everyone is what this day is all about, not just family. And if you really want to get to the heart of the matter, there is no need to set aside a special day to realize and acknowledge this. Everyday we can give thanks with open hearts and minds to everyone.