The subtlest of holidays

Thanksgiving celebrates us at our worst — and that’s what makes it so special

BRATTLEBORO — Everything is broken. My favorite plate, my favorite pair of heels, my favorite suede boots, my favorite holiday...

In the midst of modern-day Thanksgiving come platitudes like this one: “I'm so thankful that Bobby got a 100 on his being a super-perfect kid test that no one else was taking. Thank you, baby in a manger.”

And I roll my eyes to such great lengths that my eye whites catch a random gathering of twigs in my unraked lawn on fire.

The “30-Day Thankfulness Challenge” (“each day in November write a status about something you are thankful for and tag this page to spread awareness of the need to stop and give thanks”) is all the shit I hate the absolute most about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the subtlest of the holidays, which is why I've always loved it the most, with its drunk uncles and quiet dignity.

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Thanksgiving was about stretching your food dollars to make a meal you could barely afford while all of your dysfunctional relatives gathered around to vow to be better.

And, no matter how intense the depravity, at some point, we would all look around and be thankful for what we had. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

It made no sense. It was not braggy. It was real.

The gratitude would move from your stomach to your throat and your Grandpa, who never spoke except through rum and war stories, would say something: “I'm just happy to be here with all of you.” Everyone would cry because integrity was strong on the lips of those who meant it.

Now, we all go through some defined motion of thankfulness that looks like well-dressed children and partially attained perfection. It's a lie, and we've lost our way.

Sitting at the kids' table, we had “fake wine” (Martinelli's) and watched the big people try to love one another as much as we loved them in the name of gratitude. My mother pushed aside her father's desire that she be a son, and they broke bread. They held hands. We said we were grateful. We meant it.

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Gratitude is not publicly rejoicing in the best of the best. It's the timid celebration of the worst of the worst. It's finding the joy in the seemingly joyless. It's the quiet sonnet buried under a floorboard. It's beautiful because you feel it in a dark corner of something lost and something sad. It's lovely because it blooms against stark cold.

My holy day is the sharing of a meal - the making of the best of things. Warmth and full bellies and a quiet acknowledgment of the worst making us even better. Our biggest accomplishment: we were all still sitting at the same table, loving one another in spite of our shortcomings.

I'm thankful that my husband still loves me fully. I'm thankful that my son has a teacher who is helping me understand the help he needs as he struggles daily. I'm thankful for a mother who lives silently in my son's room and for every sour that has led to a well-earned sweet.

I'm thankful for life - though it be harshly lived. I'm thankful for the disbelief in perfection - mine or yours.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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