What really made it for me was when I started putting together my own family of friends. Coming together for Thanksgiving and Christmas took on different meanings than some of the pain and struggles that came with gathering with relatives. There are two very vivid points in my history that were pivotal changes of my views on gatherings for Thanksgiving.
Somewhere between 1992 and 1993 I was in college. Thanksgiving was coming and my family couldn’t afford to fly me home for break and then turn around and buy another ticket for Christmas, so I stayed on campus. Three of my friends were also staying on campus, as well. So, ultimately we decided to have Thanksgiving for ourselves and we would each cook. This was one of the first times I ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal for anyone and I was nervous. I used one of my favorite dishes, corn pudding, among a few other things. I remember we spent most of the day in the basement of the dormitory cooking. We then sat drown together to have dinner. I was terrified about how things turned out, especially since no one at the table had ever had corn pudding before. What truly sticks out to me was just the getting together, talking, and being there for each other when we couldn’t be there for our families. We ended the night watching movies with each other. It was one of the first pleasant holiday memories I ever had.
Flash forward several years. I became friends with a Chaplain when I returned to Virginia. His name was Scott and he was pretty known for throwing dinner parties. He asked me if I would like to come to one and I said yes. Mostly as a means of trying to add some fun to an otherwise holiday spent with my redneck brothers, extended family, and fear of the large amount of gay jokes that could follow. Scott has a fairly large dining room table, seating six if i remember correctly, and always cooked the whole she-bang from scratch. Wine flowed, appetizers were circulated and conversations were had. It’s not the food that stands out to me in this memory, but the conversation and the people. While I dont remember the names of the guests, I completely remember how it was a cross section of LGBTQ lifestyle that I normally wasnt accustomed to. There was a lesbian minister, college kids, Christian gays, and even straights that didnt have a place to go for dinner. We all came together at Scott’s dinner table to share views and emotions. It was civility that I had not been used to. An open sharing of ideas that you were not judged on. It was a safe place to call home for the few hours that the dinner lasted.
What I have learned is that Thanksgiving is about coming together to share ideas with people. To break bread with ones that are truly close and important to you. A time to partake in the revelry of food and emotions. For one day to be gluttonous in both food and people. It is about enjoying the simple things that can make us happy and take us away from our problems. It is about the family you call family and not simply blood relatives. I encourage you to take a look at your holiday and make it your own. Reconnect with it and if you aren’t enjoying it, find those that will make it enjoyable. Look past the history of the holiday and be thankful for being able to share experiences with others and being able to take away ideas that may shape you and your world, for better enjoyment.