Attititude of Gratitude

By Naazish YarKhan

We have our four days of Thanksgiving vacation on right now and I don’t recall the last time I had so much time on my hands. But that’s not to say we haven’t been doing anything. Wednesday morning was spent at Yousuf’s school where his class put on a play about Thanksgiving. The line up of kindergarteners in their little Native American and Pilgrim outfits were just as endearing as songs they sang about loving the earth and one another. Native Americans, however, don’t necessarily think ‘love and happiness’ around Thanksgiving. For them, Thanksgiving marks days when the Europeans exchanged poison ( alcohol, opium) for food with the Native Americans. ( Not my words but those out of a speech given by one of the Native American Chiefs. ) When the generosity of the Native Americans was repaid with plans to exterminate their population. As my Taskeen says, in America we have a way of “whitewashing our history” so that it all looks glorious rather than pock-marked with racism and bigotry. That way we can all pat our selves on the back and go back to watching our basketball, baseball and football. Opiate of the masses, I call TV. In the days of the Romans, there were the gladiators to keep the public too preoccupied to question their leaders. In modern times, it’s sports and TV. But in the spirit of the holiday, my children and I would feel crushed not partaking of this annual, American tradition and so we do, with much enthusiasm.

Following the 30 min. performance that Yousuf and his classmates put together, we shared some ‘friendship soup’ that the kids had chopped veggies for and simmered in vegetable broth overnight, in slow cookers. It was warm and yummy – perfect for the cold, rainy day that it was. Parents had been assigned to bring in different kinds of bread too – corn bread and pumpkin bread and spinach bread - and after the performance we all helped ourselves to some. The rest of Wednesday was spent chilling with two sets of friends – one in the afternoon and another in the evening. All in all, a nice, unhurried way to spend our holidays.

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day. With dad at work (unexpectedly) and Yousuf at his grandparents ( also unexpectedly), Taskeen and I had the whole day to ourselves. We invariably share Thanksgiving Dinner with extended family at their home but dinner doesn’t always happen at dinner time – sometimes it’s at 2 p.m. But this time, with the invitation for Thanksgiving Dinner actually at dinner time, it just didn’t seem right not to spend the day in the Thanksgiving Spirit.

Hence our decision to whip up a last minute Thanksgiving lunch at our own home, without the turkey of course. (Turkeys usually are 13 pounds each at least, and take about 5 hours to cook and hence my hesitation but I do intend to do it next year). Now there exists what is called a Thanksgiving menu and that’s one of the reasons I love the holiday so much. It’s one of the few things in life that is ‘just the way it was last year and the year before and the year before that’. It truly is bizarre how completely comforting that predictability is. The main course is roasted turkey while the sides are always mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, turkey gravy, jello mould, dinner rolls, cranberry something or the other, and pumpkin pie. There’s feeling over-stuffed and then there’s feeling Thanksgiving over-stuffed. The latter is way too much food, in way too few hours. “Gobble, Gobble” is the sound they say a Turkey makes and if it’s thinking of Thanksgiving, you can bet what it’s thinking when it says ‘Gobble, Gobble’. It all sounds yummy, but all of it is an acquired taste. When I first moved here, I couldn’t bear to eat all this tasteless, non-spicy food! Now of course, I;m contemplating making at least some part of it from scratch, perhaps next year.

Getting back to my story. Courtesy the local grocery, where everything can be purchased and heated in the microwave, mother and daughter decided we’d have an impromptu thanksgiving lunch. So we bought some ready-to-eat side dishes. Once home, out came the fall colored table cloth and matching serving dishes, the plates and the glasses. My favorite colors are warm earth colors so my serving dishes inadvertently fit the Fall look. I baked some frozen dough into bread rolls, warmed up the ready-to-eat meals, brought out the forks and spoons. We had lights left up from the Eid party I had last month, so those added to the festive look. Then we called the neighbors to join us with whatever they were planning to have for dinner. The icing on the cake was having Farhat and Yousuf return in time to join our instant thanksgiving party !

One thing I realized over these holidays was how often we don’t eat together, both as a family and as friends. The kids and I usually have dinner together, but Farhat normally has a plate waiting for him in the microwave. I realized how little I entertain and how much fun it is to actually bring out the nice dinnerware and serve food in nice dishes versus just help ourselves from the stove, even if it means more dishes to clear up. It felt warm and wonderful to actually make the effort to make the day extra special – whether it was the nice dinner ware, or the baked bread rolls or having company over.

On the flip side, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, there is something that we have been doing right, and that’s trying to be thankful. Each night, or at least as often as we remember, my children and I thank God for five things in our lives. We thank him and then we ask for five blessings we want in our life. When I forget to go over this, Yousuf invariably reminds me. And when I complain about life, my friends remind me to switch my tune. Being thankful for His mercies and His Bounties, His trials and His tests, is one way to keep the doors to His generosity and His Mercy open.