Like many of you, COVID scrambled my Thanksgiving 2020 plans. For the first time, this year, I will be at home enjoying a meal for one. And with that, the holiday recipes I wrote will be pared down or perhaps swapped out for a big bowl of ice cream. My gathering of one will lack the typical affection and interactivity of the holiday. However, I have known the unfamiliar to unexpectedly shape beautiful beginnings – even when shrouded in difficulty.
Five years ago, my sisters and I celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time without my parents or brother. We had grown practiced at reinventing traditions since Nick’s passing. We had not, however, imagined the holidays without my father, who died suddenly just a few weeks prior. And while my mother was still alive, she spent the holiday weekend in the hospital in what was her last few weeks on earth. The year was heavy – almost without breath. Perhaps like this year for many of you.
The Unexpected Shaping That Emerged
For all of its hardship, something new emerged that year. The discovery came slowly, almost without notice and a new current began to blow though my life. If you read my blog, then you know what happened next. I enrolled in culinary school nearly 400 miles away from where I lived. As a single, working mother, the experience was frought with challenges. It was uncertain and exhausting. I often reflected on my choice wondering if I had gone mad. Yet through it, I transformed from a comfort-seeker to an empowered woman on a journey.
Thanksgiving has always been a reflection of the times, even it is earliest portrayal in America hundreds of years ago. Our cultural traditions and the sentiment of the holiday have consistently been influenced by context and the resources available at the time. The spirit of the holiday is about enjoying what is in front and center, where the toil of labor can be put to rest and shared for a moment in community. Whether you have sweet potatoes and green beans at a full table or a cheese plate for one doesn’t matter. You are authentically celebrating by simply enjoying nourishment and being present in whatever way you can. The holiday acknowledges our collective perseverance through difficult times.
Though our perspective for Thanksgiving 2020 is colored by the heartbreak and challenges of COVID amid other things, it can also be the starting point for a new story. As so, I consider this a moment of reinvention; it provides an opportunity to embrace what’s good and possible no matter the circumstance. And that, my friends, is reason to give thanks.