What is the most appropriate adjective this year, of all years, for the phrase “_____ Thanksgiving?”
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lib Thanksgiving
At least one family I know has a fun and funny Thanksgiving tradition. Each year, after dinner, the family sits around the table doing a Mad Lib that has been written by a family member. You remember Mad Libs right?
Those are the fill-in-the-blank stories which are created when people suggest nouns, verbs, and adjectives without knowing what the story is really about. For example, they might be asked for an adjective, verb, and noun for this line:
(ADJECTIVE) Tony (VERB) to the store and bought a (NOUN).
Of course, Mad Libbers don’t actually know the line so the complete sentence could turn out to be very funny, very nonsensical, and even very racy. Usually, they are just very funny. Like, “Upside down Tony gargled to the story and bought a new tire.” Okay, okay…I thought it was funny.
This year we have an actual Mad Lib Thanksgiving. What is the adjective we will use to describe it? Frankly, “happy” doesn’t work for me because this has been a year of such unhappiness for so many and it still isn’t over. While I write the rest of this blog, I’m going to continue to think about how I will answer the question I posed at its beginning.
If you are looking to take a break from the endless news cycle and COVID-19 ravaged football games, there are three short pieces I recommend you read today. All came into my email inbox over the past 24 hours and each spoke to me in different ways. Just click on the header link to access each of them.
Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor and writer from Maine, writes a daily blog which my friend Dave introduced me to a few months ago. In this blog she writes about the history of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It doesn’t follow the story we all learned as children – you know, kindly Pilgrims and even more kindly Indigenous people who didn’t let the Pilgrims starve. It focused instead on how President Abraham Lincoln came to proclaim the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. More fascinating than how it came to be is why it came to be. I won’t bury the headline but I won’t give it away either. Be sure to give it a read yourself.
Last week, David Leonhardt, the writer of the The Morning newsletter, in the New York Times, asked readers to send him six words that describe what made them thankful in 2020. I found it to be – all at the same – the most beautiful, moving, sweetest, and saddest of all articles I’ve read recently. After a very brief introduction by Leonhardt, the remainder of the article features the six word descriptions submitted by reader. Leonhardt received over 10,000 replies and, of course, he could not publish them all. Here are six that touched me, but, please, take a few minutes and read his list:
The crinkling eye above the mask.
Ambulance took him. He came home.
Held my son as he died.
We’re falling in love over FaceTime.
Alone, spouses thankful for tiny turkey.
This stinking year is almost over.
This is a blog written by my friend Geri Seiberling. She and her husband, Kevin, started etc!graphics, a visual communications company, in Carlisle, Iowa in 1988. Their office is directly across the street from the building that house the office of my first consultancy business, which I opened in 1998. Geri and Kevin were very helpful to me in establishing the “look” of that business. Unfortunately, that business was just beginning to get a foothold in 2001 when the events of September 11th happened. The subsequent impact on the U.S. economy forced me to finally close the business in 2004 though it actually died in late 2001 and early 2002.
For this Thanksgiving holiday, Geri published her blog as a letter about the year 2020 to her future self (to be opened again next year at this time). It is one of the most creative, hopeful, optimistic pieces I’ve read this year. It very much reflects Geri as I remember her. I’ve not seen her or Kevin since I left Iowa in 2005 but I remember their office was a place I could always stop by when I needed good advice, a sounding board, or just a word of hope and optimism.
Answering the First Question
I opened this blog with this question: What is the most appropriate adjective this year, of all years, for the phrase “_____ Thanksgiving?” I’m going to try to fill in that blank now.
This year I have become more aware of my privilege as a white American male than ever before. My awareness was further expanded about 12 hours ago.
Last night we had a Thanksgiving Zoom with our children. A daughter is in Brooklyn, New York, three hours away. A son and daughter-in-law are in Columbia, Maryland, fifteen minutes away. All three reported being overworked and wildly stressed. All three looked exhausted and like they had aged several years over the past several months. I’m guessing we must have looked older and more worn to them too.
However, we all also reported that we feel fortunate to be in a different place than some of our friends who have lost jobs, income, and loved ones to COVID-19. Also, we have all remained healthy. Only one of us has had a possible exposure to the virus that necessitated COVID-19 testing. We all regularly mask up, maintain physical distance, and otherwise do the right things to ensure we remain healthy, protect others, and don’t become a burden to the already overburdened health system. And, we all feel a certain amount of survivor’s guilt to be so fortunate so far.
I understand my privilege now extends to being one who still has a regular income, a place to call my home, food on the table, minimal worries about the physical health of our children, fewer worries about our children’s financial health and well-being than some parents, a plan to stay safe and well, and the resources to animate that plan.
How dare I, from this position of privilege and through this lens, wish anyone a “Happy” Thanksgiving this year? I don’t dare.
Wherever you are, whatever your situation, I can only hope for you a restful, peaceful, and safe Thanksgiving.
Be safe, be well, wear your mask, keep distance, wash your hands, and, in every way and every day, stand up for accountability, justice, and peace in our country and our world.