ORIGINALLY WRITTEN PAUL PENNER
This Thanksgiving season, my spouse and I will not be with our adult children and their spouses or friends. Ben, Anna, Dave, Tom and Jessica will be together, however, in Harlem, N.Y.
Though their journey into the heart of the inner city may not resemble the traditional Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving ride to Grandma’s house, nevertheless, they will arrive for a family gathering complete with turkey and all the trimmings.
In addition to family members, other friends from out of town will be present.
One former classmate suggested that Jess and Tom had become “that couple” who invite other people in for the holidays.
From my perspective, the friend recognized their transition beyond college life and even beyond young adulthood. They were doing the things their parents did, like hosting a Thanksgiving celebration where family members and friends would be welcome at the table. The only difference is their location and style.
As an observer to this transition, I find comfort in it. They value family ties as much as we do. They also have vibrant, meaningful relationships with other friends. They enjoy the company of many people.
This event symbolizes a transition of family values to the younger generation. It is a passing of the baton, if you will.
Perhaps Jessica might question my personal observation. She would add: This is not your usual Grandmother’s holiday gathering of family members, noting the participants include three writers, a needle exchange worker, a Ph.D. candidate, an acquisitions editor and a philosopher.
But that’s OK. I will smile and observe the gathering from afar.
In Thanksgiving rituals during my earlier years, I remember sharing meals with English professors, elementary and high school educators, medical doctors, grandparents, a retired Navy veteran, missionary families, pastors, farmers, homemakers, college students, entrepreneurs, truck drivers and more.
Not all guests were present at the same time, however. Our home could not possibly seat all at once, even if we converted the bedrooms to dining rooms.
But I do remember the gatherings were lively and far from boring-not to mention these celebrations rarely took place at Grandma’s house, but at my parents’ house in much the same fashion as the one planned for this week in Harlem.
Anyway, I am thankful that our children are living life to the fullest. Rather than be saddened by their absence this year, I feel fortunate to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal with our own friends.
Prior to noon, Thursday, our guests will arrive. As residents of Hillsboro, they will not have made the traditional journey over the river and through the woods. They will take the other, less scenic route-across the streets and past the tree-lined yards.
Speaking of the ride to Grandma’s house….
How does one do that in the big city? As the song goes, “Over the river and through the woods….” If one changed the words to, “Into the subway and through Central Park…” It doesn’t have the right rhythm, nor does it rhyme very well with the rest of the verse.
And what about traveling through the fields of snow? Imagine the snow in the city trampled by a half million pairs of feet. It is no longer a pristine white but dappled gray or mottled black.
I’m kidding, really.
Central Park is an island of beauty and wonderment amid the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. And when it snows, the entire park is transformed into a winter wonderland where people come to soak in the beauty of their surroundings.
Whether one celebrates the holiday on the plains of Kansas or in Harlem, the important thing is not the location, but rather the meaning of Thanksgiving celebrated with family and friends.