Some people have celebrated Thanksgiving in the same way for years. Not me. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I celebrated with more than two generations and a band of cousins. When I was a kid, we lived in Nebraska, my mom's family were mostly on the west coast, and my dad's tiny family was clustered in South Jersey. So Thanksgiving was just the four of us, with maybe the addition of a random guest or two. After Jim and I got married, we stayed home for our first Thanksgiving, and invited a bunch of fellow students who were at loose ends. Then we had several years of trekking to Other People's Houses because we were the young couple with no kids. My parents divorced in the mid-1970s and Thanksgiving turned into an awkward dance, rationing ourselves out carefully so neither one felt slighted. After we moved to DC, we stopped traveling for Thanksgiving. Not only was it the WORST time to try to go anywhere, and the end of my semester (grading, final papers, panic), but Jim worked in the display department of a big downtown store and often worked overtime the weekend after Thanksgiving to trim the aisles and windows for Christmas. Our Thanksgiving has changed every few years; that's our "tradition".
For many people, this is a suddenly different Thanksgiving, but for us, it's just another chance to ensure the Important Things happen. There must be pie and stuffing. There must be time spent with friends. There must be gratitude.
There was definitely pie. I have had four pieces of pumpkin pie today, and will have more pie tomorrow. There was stuffing, though not enough. (Then again, I never get enough stuffing.) I had a wonderful phone call with a close friend, and we visited with a new neighbor down the hall. And there is gratitude. Gratitude for our new home, for safety, for health and humor, for opportunities to be of use. Gratitude for technologies that have made these months easier, gratitude for artists and musicians, gratitude for health care workers and for children and for cute animal videos.
When this is over, let's have a party. A big one, with lots of stuffing.
It's National Jukebox Day! The jukeboxes of my childhood had actual 45 rpm records stacked inside, so when you dropped in your coin you could watch the magic of a mechanical arm swinging out, picking your record, and playing it.
For those of you who like a little history, here's a handy timeline from TouchTunes makers of the first digital pay-for-play jukebox (1998). Of course, today I have a smartphone and access to a personal library of hundreds of recordings, no coin required. Still, there is something about watching sound come out of spinning vinyl, isn't there?
November 24 is Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day! (It’s also National Sardine Day, but I’ll pass.) Here’s how it is described on checkiday.com:
Everyone has a unique talent or skill at which they truly excel. Today is the day to embrace those quirky abilities and show them off to everyone else!
Here’s my list of special talents:
None of these is unique (another special talent of mine is vocabulary policing), but as they are part of what make me the individual I am. It would be the icing on the cake if I could talk like Donald Duck, or turn my eyelids inside out, like that kid I knew in fifth grade.
Dr. Who debuted on this date in (whew!) 1963, so November 23 has become an international holiday for the Whovians of this planet, and possibly others. I was late to the party, only starting to watch during the Matt Smith era. But it is one of my very favorite sci fi series, and I look forward to the annual Chistmas episodes. It was not easy to celebrate; a lot of the series is on subscription services, and I spent all my discretionary income on food bank and voting rights donations. But I watched a retrospective documentary on Amazon Prime, finally realizing who Rula Lenska was. (Only a few people will get THAT, but I am fine with obscure references.) And I read up on the history of Dr. Who, his adventures, and the wide world of Dr. Who fandom.
Resolution for next year: have some ginger beer on hand. It is apparently the thing to imbibe on Tardis Day.
My schedule for the coming week, if anyone wants to join the party:
11/23: Tardis Day (Dr. Who FTW!)
11/24: Celebrate Your Unique Talent Day
11/25: National Jukebox Day
11/26: Thanksgiving with my sweetie
11/27: Pins and Needles Day
11/28: French Toast Day
11/29: National Square Dance Day
The pickings for a holiday to celebrate are pretty slim today. I passed on Cranberry Relish Day, because we don't have any on hand and I have no plans to make any. (Not to mention the fact that I prefer the jelly that slides out of a can.) Start Your Own Country Day was tempting, but (1) probably specious and (2) too much work. For folks my age, November 22 is forever marked with the shock and sadness of lost innocence. I was 14, a freshman in high school, hanging out with my friends when we heard that President Kennedy was shot.
So I have settled on Go for a Ride Day as today's holiday. We will probably take a ride to a local brewery to restock our fridge. If I could take any ride, it would be on a train just at sundown.
Gingerbread is so wonderful, it actually has two holidays! But when the days are short and getting colder, that's gingerbread season for me. I celebrated by making a dozen gingerbread muffins, eating one, and giving the rest out to my new friends and neighbors on the 5th floor. (don't worry, I also made extra batter for non-muffinoid gingerbread).
November 20 is my son's birthday, and it is also World Children's Day. Nothing shifted my consciousness quite like becoming a parent, and both of my children had a profound effect on me - and still do. The lessons I learned from them changed the way I taught my classes, and inspired my entire research journey into the relationship between clothing and gender. But even more important, their vulnerabilities and struggles heightened my awareness and concern for children in general. Some time ago, our choir performed a wonderful piece by UU composer Elizabeth Alexander titled "No Other People's Children".
No Other People's Children
So, in the spirit of World Children's Day, and in celebration of my son Danny, I donated to an organization that trains volunteers to be child advocates for abused and neglected children in our area. And in celebration of my own childhood, I am wearing my red sneakers and remembering the pure joy of recess.
So Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be different this year. Different from last year, different from what we had planned, and different from what we want them to be. In the immortal words of soon-to-be-former President Trump, "It is what it is", which is pretty much the subtitle for the film version of 2020. But we are clever, creative human beings and we can celebrate our biggest holidays in new ways. Who knows, they might even become new traditions!
To make up for the diminished big holidays, I am going to celebrate as many holidays between now and the end of the pandemic as I can. There are a zillion of them. Take a look at the options at https://www.checkiday.com/ and get your party on with me!
It seems impossible (and in hindsight, sheer folly) but three weeks ago someone in the chat during our streaming church service mentioned how they would miss our annual women’s retreat. By the time we were moving from our YouTube channel to the Zoom coffee hour, we were requesting a breakout room to talk about the possibility of an online retreat. Three weeks ago. And this weekend, it happened, and it was good.
As I recall, it used to be like this: a rush hour drive to a peaceful, nicely-appointed retreat center, gathering with thirty or so other women to share stories, take long walks, and enjoy a break from the everyday. This would be different; no driving was involved. But other than that, couldn’t we still share, walk, and create a sense of separation from...whatever we needed to get away from? Instead of the snack collection in the break room, we were limited to the contents of our own cupboards. Most of us had to figure out how to maintain a retreat state of mind while occupying a household going about their own business. For me, this meant setting myself up in the bedroom of our four-room apartment, with access to the master bath, while my husband had free reign of the three other rooms and the second bath.
I filled a pitcher with ice water, brought in my journal and pens, and made sure I had a small supply of snacks: dark chocolate, a pear, and some granola bars. It felt right.
We had a website to organize the schedule and invite interaction. We had a yoga, a craft activity, and even a Zoom dance party, and lots more. We had Zoom gatherings for meals, with small group breakout “tables” to replicate the cafeteria experience at the retreat center, a setting that many women remembered fondly as locations for creating and deepening relationships. We had a profoundly spiritual opening and closing. If you build it, they will come; we had over sixty registrations. Not everyone attended every session, but that was true of our earlier retreats. (I was notorious for “playing hookey” from retreats and heading to nearby brewpubs.)
So this afternoon, I am basking in the glow of a weekend well-spent. I am grateful for my community, for technology that can bring us together in hard times. I am grateful for the fearless women who stepped up to do this crazy thing, and for the trusting women who signed up t9 come alone for the ride, no matter how bumpy it might be.
Was it a real retreat? My friend Janne caught this screen shot of me during the closing meditation. It certainly felt like it.
My Gender Mystique blog focuses on my work on clothing, sex, and gender. That's not all I do, so this blog is about everything else.