It’s Thanksgiving Weekend here in Oh Canada. But I just can’t get in the Mood to celebrate. You would think that after 21 years of living here, that I’d accept the October date to celebrate one of my favourite holidays of the year — Halloween always was and remains my favourite. But I just can’t get used to this early October date for all the table-sitting, food-stuffing merry times. I concede that it makes absolute, perfect sense to have set a harvest festival at this time of the year. The crops have been picked, the bounty enjoyed and people, like my dear friend and neighbour, Margaret, have spent hot August afternoons — and September ones too — in the kitchen sterilizing jars and boiling vats of fruit jams and chutneys and pickling tomatoes and green beans and carrying them down to the cellar to be gifted and eaten over the dark days from November to March. (I shouldn’t have written that last phrase. Just those little five words are enough for me to want to go hide under the blankets with Nicky and not get up until April.) All that good stuff in Margaret’s basement is enough reason to celebrate this Monday’s holiday but I just don’t “feel” it. Maybe, if I had some of Margaret’s bread-and-butter pickles and strawberry jam, I’d feel differently.
But, back to this October Thanksgiving thing. When I first arrived here, I tried to embrace all the Canadianisms that I could. For example, I started to end every sentence on an up-note like I was asking a question. I noticed this way of speaking almost immediately upon arrival here. It drove me crazy because I never knew whether the person was asking me a question or just making a statement in a weird way. But, I thought, “When in Canada…” So, in the spirit of wanting to fit in, I started doing it too. “Hi. My name is Ann?” I’d say in a questioning way. It made me immediately doubt that I really was “Ann” and this made me have even more self doubts than the huge bundle I came up here with in 1995. So, instead, I started ending all my sentences with “eh” which softened the effect a little and didn’t hurt my self esteem quite as much. The speaking taken care of, I decided, that first October, to have a Thanksgiving dinner to honour my first fall here. Since I didn’t know anyone to invite and the murmuring ex-husband wasn’t yet comfortable with introducing me to anyone, it was a small affair and definitely did not have that warm, fuzzy family feel of my Thanksgivings of old. I decided then that until I knew more people, I was not going to all that bother for just the two of us. Going to a movie on the day seemed to be a better celebration. But I did miss having a real Thanksgiving for sure.
I didn’t have another one until the ex-husband was gone and I had a big enough group of friends to share the work and the celebration. But even then, it just didn’t seem the same. I was talking to my friend, Jennette, about this last night. I told her that my memories of Thanksgiving are of it being cold outside — why else have that song, Over the River and Through the Snow as the Thanksgiving theme? I remember sitting with my mom in the living room peeling potatoes — you need a lot of hands and potatoes to make mashed potatoes for 14 people. We’d watch the Macy’s parade on TV while we peeled and the house smelled of roasting turkey that she had gotten up at 5 a.m. to put in the oven. My memory is definitely Norman Rockwell-ish if not Currier and Ives. (I didn’t mention the hours of football games to Jennette since I never liked those and I only wanted to share my sweet memories.) Jennette pointed out that, other than the Macy’s parade, they do all those things here, too. But it’s just not the same, I told her. It’s October.
Do our memories of days and celebrations become our home memory so that nothing we experience later can quite live up to that memory? I’m not sure that even if I made my way down to Columbus, O this November and sat around that same table — but not the same TV — with an assortment of my sweet family that it would live up to that memory I have of earlier Thanksgivings. Actually, the month doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s just about picking a time to be thankful that I still have those memories no matter how embellished they’ve become over the years. I think, no matter what time of the year it is, it’s always about saying thanks. In that spirit, this October Thanksgiving, over my dinner of chicken thighs in an apple cider sauce, I will be thankful for all those memories of past November Thanksgivings in the USofA. While, at the same time, and in the spirit of my new country, I will give thanks to Oh Canada for welcoming me and giving me the chance to create new Thanksgiving memories here. (I might also slip in a little merci for the privilege of living north of that border this election year. Amen.)