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Give Thanks

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For Thanksgiving, we jump in the car and drive to see family out-of-state. And of all the real holiday activities, this one little trip is a beloved tradition for me. I’m not sure why. It may be the time of year. Fall is just starting to stagger under winter’s coming cold. Harvested fields are barren, with an austere, windswept beauty. Trees have shed their leaves and stretch haunting as gaunt stick figures.

This is black coffee weather. We mark our trip with stops at gas stations, and I fill up venti styrocups with my strong black brew. Onward.

This trip lends us the first buzz of holiday electricity in the air. Just feeling that today is different because “It’s Thanksgiving.” Today we will see the family we rarely see, and eat all those pies and creamed casseroles we usually avoid. Today is defined by its festivity, and we’re all happy to feel it.

But I love this Thanksgiving car trip for the cozy rest it brings. Road trips, for me, are an oasis of calm and focus in my normally scatter-brained life. Sitting in a car, I am trapped. I have only my knitting dictionaries and my knitting projects to work on. There is no option of unloading half of the dishwasher only to remember why I walked into the kitchen in the first place, and then close the dishwasher door and commence the next half-task. I work on my knitted cowl, then study lace patterns for a bit, finally gazing out the window when those options get stale. Then: repeat. I finish projects. I complete thoughts. I plan the whole of my next project, and map it out. (To do: make Frida Kahlo stitch marker sets, design circular cowl with knit leaf edging, paint gold mendhi designs on last year’s jeans.)

And when we arrive at my mom’s house, the cold outside seems to push us in. Welcomed by warmth we are just happy to be there, inside, with each other.

I love how low-key Thanksgiving is. I used to see Thanksgiving as the shrimpy little cousin of Christmas, the varsity letter holiday. Thanksgiving doesn’t come close to Christmas in our hearts, and probably will never get there. But I’m liking that more and more each year. I’m getting tired of all the tacky Christmas decorations that fill up Walmart every year, and the colossal stress of Christmas shopping. And I’m not going to lie: I have never liked Making Merry. I am slightly cynical and I feel tired out by the demands of Goodwill Towards Men and all that happy Christian hoopla that I feel obliged to fake. I see why people drink more during the holidays and I just might join them.

And everything about Christmas seems to be a large-scale endeavor. Gifts for 20 of your closest friends, homemade treats for 40 of your neighbors, coworkers and acquaintances. Four classroom parties, seven Best Christmas Ever gifts for your family, and nine fussy traditions that are certainly more trouble than they’re worth. And then: decorate your house with no less than eight Rubbermaid totes of lights, ornaments and dustables. Ugh.

But for Thanksgiving, people just focus on one big meal, football on TV and Black Friday shopping. Very doable, I think. I don’t even decorate for Thanksgiving. Well, that’s not true; I put out one Thanksgiving decoration. (See picture at top.) One fall day a few years ago, my daughter and I went on a run in the country. It was a windy day and farmers were harvesting their field-corn. Dried tufts of corn husk scattered everywhere, rolling like tumbleweed across our path. I picked one up because I’m a city girl who is still intrigued by things like . . . corn. It was so cool: layers of papery petals formed a delicate and scraggly bloom. It reminded me of a down-home lotus blossom. So we gathered up as many as we could hold and hauled our treasure home.

Now every year, I dump these pretty dried husks in a stone planter in the corner of my piano room. They make such a pretty arrangement and I love how they’re architectural but unexpected, too.

And it only takes me two minutes to decorate for Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for that.