By the time you read this, it will be Thanksgiving. My mom and I will have assessed the weather situation and - at last - have settled on whether she's hosting or if the family can make it up my driveway.
I am rewriting this column, because once I realized that I would be published on this holiday, I scraped my original draft about the nuclear situation and the climate change situation and how they are a catch-22 in the apocalyptic pickle we're in. Mmm, pickles. Will there be pickles and olives at your snack table today?
Now, I choose the fluffy route, instead of being Debbie Downer, because it could get awkward if I host T-Giving while my family has just read my column about doom. So, I'm going to wimp out here and get festive.
But since I'm not a wimp, I'm going to put a pretty cool psychedelic spin on this T-giving topic. Gratitude: it's like fire, you have to be careful. Used properly, it's a great help to survival, but if you're reckless, you could get burned.
Wait! Don't choke on your cheeseball at the youth table at your Family Function! I know it's shocking to think of gratitude as fire, but yes, I am about to make a case for the pros and cons of thankfulness.
Psychologists (whom I think are also like fire) have done studies indicating that gratitude and happiness are very much aligned. When study subjects are asked to write about someone they are most grateful for in their life, and then after they do that, are surprised with a request to telephone the person they chose, and read what they wrote (in front of the scientists). They are then tested for their happiness levels, their mood, aches and pains, and subjective rating of how they feel. It turns out that the more grateful you feel, the more boosted and happy and confident you feel.
Now is Thanksgiving about gratitude? I think so. I think that's it's worthiest function.
A lot of controversy about this holiday, some mention the genocide of the natives, others say it's too commercial, others say it was a gimmick by Abe Lincoln to get people to buy turkeys, others compare it to the Pagan fertility rituals and call it a sin, others are just too sick of traditions and family and the deep societal rifts, that they just want to call it quits on the whole sha-bang. But not me! I still like that gratitude part. And since gratitude feels good, it's also selfishly motivated.
Gratitude makes you feel more confident and convivial toward others. But as humans, we take time out to focus on this gratitude, because we tend to forget it.
Why is it that we can so easily "forget" what being grateful really feels like? Partially, it's because (in my opinion) if you were always super-grateful, you would be a danger to yourself and others. If you took a pill that made you permanently in a state of bliss-bunny gratitude, you would become very vulnerable and complacent to abuse. You would always be grateful that it wasn't worse, so you'd never get good and angry, you'd never fight back.
If your wastebasket was on fire, you'd say, well I'm grateful it's not my rug, but soon the rug's aflame, and you're just grateful it's not the whole room,.
I look forward to the holidays with bowel-quaking mixed feelings. I want to be the best host here at my farm, Squalor Holler Homestead, the people who made this miracle happen when I was growing up - my mom, aunts, grandmas - they always made it come together like magic, every detail, synchronized, so it was more than just a big dinner, it was a formalized family affair, a whole experience. The effort of getting out the good dishes, dusting off the gravy boat, fluttering out a lace tablecloth. Things are different in my generation.
You're lucky if you have the holiday off from the technocorp-slave-corporation you work at, double-lucky if you have two potatoes to mash together. Polish the silverware? This stuff isn't silverware, it's probably made of lead from China. But gall darn it, we're going to make this thing happen, because when all is said and done, family (one you were born in, or one you found) is a blessing!
Now in the last remaining inches of this column, now that I warned you to be balanced about gratitude (because it is like fire), I shall condense my gratitudes in one long breath:
For the buck meat my dad just bagged me and my kin whom helped skin and chop with their tools on their land (supremely to cousin Jeff's rifle); for the beautiful memory of the October day when Lewis and I went to buy this year's 25-pound turkey up by Bear Lake at the wonderful Freeman Homestead, with Kelly Hill looking gorgeous as ever (sidenote I heard that when my grandpa got home from World War II, one of the first things he did was jump into and swim across, Bear Lake); for the snow I'm watching pile up and give strange evening light to the forest; for the character of my niece Eden, how funny she is, and how she's a light in our family that has changed us; for the fact that no predators have harmed my free-range hens; for the quality of sensitivity that agonizes and disabuses illusions; for the empowering quality of curiosity; for not dying in confusion at the new Seneca Rez round-about on Route 20; for turkeys and what awesome animals they are; and for this column.
Now here's one thing I'm mega-ungrateful about, to make sure I don't get too blissed up on feeling good - I just found (I know it's a little late) but I just found out that where I went to High School in Dunkirk was, and is, right next to a SuperFund hazardous toxic site and I'm pretty ticked that it was never mentioned in school and I never was asked to sign a waiver and had lessons about the significance. We never were taught to ask if we should be mad or concerned or regret decisions to serve industrial goals. Kind of ticked because, if people could assess history, they would say, what right do we have to discuss RePowering with dangerous fracking, when we have for decades, had our high school languishing next to a SuperFund toxic site?
Lindsay Morrison is a Forestville resident.