“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” -Gerald Good
Last Thanksgiving I wore a little black dress and uncomfortable heels to a dark basement bar in New York City. Lights that looked like jars of fireflies hung from the ceilings, above a long slab of maple that served as a bartop. There beside the stove we stood, a handful of girls and boys from all over the country, making the best of a holiday with questionable origins.
There was no turkey, stuffing, or cranberry sauce. No spiked eggnog, no separation of kids and adults tables. I can’t even recall if we talked about what we were thankful for besides the occasional, “I’m thankful for whiskey…” comments made inconspicuously through the night.
We carried drinks and food to the few hotel guests that chose to travel on an American holiday. For the most part, it was just us in that big dark room.
It was the first time it occured to me that so many of the people that come to New York don’t have the opportunity to spend the holidays with loved ones. Whether we’re chasing a dream, reinventing ourselves, running from our past or following our hearts, many of came to this big city, alone.
We left behind friends, families, and pets. We call and write letters and send pictures. Most days a phone call is enough to bring them close enough to forget they aren’t with you, but when the holidays roll in, you find yourself longing for the warmth of a real hug. I’d close my eyes and imagine the smell of turkey cooking in my aunt’s kitchen and I could almost hear the raucous of children running through every room. Slow down, kids. Slow down.
I remember stepping back and taking a look at the people I was surrounded by. Paddy from Arizona. Maggie from Utah. Nic from California. Emily from Connecticut. Justin, a New Yorker, who’d just spent the past 5 years in Hawaii, just because he could.
And me. From some town in Massachusetts with a big yard, and a big family and a little dog.
In that moment, New Yorkers and Americans across the country were sitting down to a seven course meal of mashed potatoes and gravy, winter squash and pumpkin pie, holding hands, bowing heads, saying prayers and sharing “I’m thankful for…”s. In that moment, we were our own version of family. With each laugh, we were dimming the reality of our separate solitude, the distance between us shifting for a moment as our hearts found a common ground.
And I smiled and thought how thankful I was to have been in that moment.