oh, thanksgiving. i have such mixed emotions about you, you deceptive holiday. i spent countless elementary school class periods making and wearing construction paper pilgrim hats and "indian" headdresses and then sitting down to cafeteria meals of sliced turkey alongside those glutinous piles of mashed potatoes with the perfect concavity in the middle for the gravy, only learning years later what a bizarrely positive spin had been applied to thanksgiving, how fooled we all were.
i've known the true story for a while now (and my own kids learned a much more accurate version of the way native people were treated in this country), but i was still shocked and upset when i watched american experience's series of films, we shall remain. actually, i could only stand to watch the first two -- and now they are all i can think about when i contemplate the official holiday of thanksgiving: what my ancestors did to the people who lived here when they showed up and claimed it for themselves.
but, here's where the conflict comes in: i love my own version of thanksgiving, the one that has evolved over the years with my family. first of all, my thanksgiving hasn't involved a dead bird on the table for a long time -- i've been a vegetarian since i was seventeen, and remarkably, both of my parents are now vegetarians (as are both of my brothers, their wives and all but one of their children - my eight year old rebel niece pink - as well as my own immediate brood). during the seven years that m and i had our bookstore, we weren't able to travel over thanksgiving break because of black friday (ugh), when we had to be there to open the store. we started a tradition of ordering carryout indian food and eating it in the bookstore (which was closed, a rare occurrence) with whoever happened to be around and hungry. my parents admitted that they enjoyed spending thanksgiving alone, just the two of them, with no fuss, no cooking, and no stress.
since we closed the store, we've continued the indian food theme, often with my mom and dad. it is awfully luxurious to have someone else cook for you, and indian restaurants are almost always open on thanksgiving. we tend to cook an elaborate feast for christmas instead (in fact, it's a pretty traditionally "thanksgiving" meal, minus the turkey and plus a tofurkey or two).
so, that's the food part. the opportunity to have several days of bean and boo home from school, and to pause and think of everything and everyone i have in my life to be grateful for, plus that delicious emptiness of the streets when you're out walking on thanksgiving day and everyone else is inside eating, digesting, watching television -- who could hate a holiday like that?