Writer’s Note: This is a creative short story that I wrote last year in October. At that time of year, I was excited for Thanksgiving to come around, so I wanted to offer a fresh perspective on the meaning of this holiday and how it is celebrated in America. Hope you enjoy!- Naima
A Shift in Perspective
My family members fill the open seats at the dinner table as their eyes glint under the chandelier’s lights. The crisp fall air and the sickly sweet smell of pumpkin awaken the memories I have of past Thanksgiving dinners. The table held so much food that there was no more room for another dish. Laughter was sandwiched in between instructions for how to prepare the next entrée, either a boat of gravy or steaming mashed potatoes.
This year as we gather around the heaps of food, we exchange statement expressing all the things we’re grateful for. I pause. There are too many. How do I say I’m thankful that the cashier at Food Lion smiled at me without sounding weird? How do I express that I’m overjoyed that my heart is still beating without sounding obsessive about my health?
With the meal in front of me, I have to remember that today is not all about stuffing myself until I can hardly breathe. And don’t lose me now because I’m not going to give you a history lesson about pilgrims and America. Thanksgiving is a reminder to be grateful, to give rather than to take, to find a sense of unity with those whom I share this holiday. But at the same time, Thanksgiving was the day my friend took her own life, a day when families fight because they found a reason to ignore their shattered ties. Thanksgiving is pretending you’re comfortable in the presence of siblings you stopped getting along with years ago. I have defined this day in several ways now, and I should have warned you that my perspective wouldn’t convey that fairy-tale tone that everyone loves. Thanksgiving is a teeter-totter of balancing our hopes and desires with reality. But I, too, am guilty. I should very well understand that Thanksgiving was not meant to embody perfection, as I stuff my face with turkey all the while.
With this holiday, I find comfort in discomfort, peace and tolerance in disunity, and an appetite that suddenly becomes insatiable as dinner-time comes around. I find laughter, light, and joy in my imperfect household. I find- no; I create happiness from dust and ashes, joy from the days I’ve struggled to just stop worrying, stop thinking so much. I pick up everything that I am grateful for, lock them in the brightest place in my heart, kiss them goodnight before I go to bed. I cherish them; let them transform the corners of my mouth into laugh lines, dimples of sheer joy and gratitude. They are mine, and they are here to stay; for without them, I wouldn’t know how to be happy- how to create this intangible thing that everyone is looking for. Little do they know that happiness cannot be found in materialism in gluttony. Tell me this is cliché, but go out and buy all the clothing, shoes, and jewelry you want. Let me know if you would be any happier if you chose to abandon gratitude, leave it in the dust just as you would forget all your pricy shoes just weeks after you bought them. Nothing. Nothing can fill the void in your heart that has been specifically left open for thankfulness. May gratitude forever reside there, and should it be asked to give up its seat, let it adopt the same attitude as Rosa Parks.
I do not condemn material things, but I do stand against the abandonment of gratitude. Be thankful for the little things, like the fact that today, you are able to read, see, and think clearly. Let gratitude fill you up until you are a parachute that transcends this world’s obstacles, burdens, and injustice. We do not live in a perfect world, but by being thankful, we promote an environment that fosters unity, love, and peace. I wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving Day.