Carol and I continue to ask ourselves about finding each other, “How did this happen?” The mutuality of the question may be differently shaded: mine reflecting a childlike wonder; hers more of a grownup’s wonder over a perplexing child.
For instance, our first Thanksgiving together will be celebrated apart. She will be the matriarch of the Madigan family's feast here in California, and I will serve as a sous chef for my daughter's in Chicago. Both families would have perfectly understood had we chosen one over the other for the sake of being together for the holiday, but Carol and I agree this is the right way to celebrate it this first year. At least when it's over, I will not be returning to an empty house in Seattle, and Carol will not be returning to a room carved out of her daughter and son-in-law's home. That alone is more than enough to be thankful for, regardless of the miles separating us when we do sit down and give thanks.
I'm thinking it would have been much the same for those pilgrims sitting down at the very first Thanksgiving, a lot farther away from their home and loved ones on this day than Carol and I are. What an ironic sense of hope and belonging that must have infused the table talk that day, given the acrimony and discord between the Native Americans and those WASPS that was soon to follow. Maybe that's why acrimony and discord is so closely associated with the modern version of that first feast.
So, since our first Thanksgiving will be apart, Carol and I should be especially thankful we'll be avoiding starting our own tradition of dysfunction. Given our completely different backgrounds, we've devoted some thought to the breakdown that we feel (correct that...I feel) must be inevitable between us. That nothing of the sort has even remotely presented itself to date is quite beside the point, by my way of thinking (although to Carol’s way of thinking, that is precisely the point. Hence those different shades of meaning alluded to earlier.) Eventually, then as it follows, the acrimony and discord of Thanksgiving must ensnare us as well. And I am not looking forward to it at all.
It's true that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of all the things in life that can go wrong. But I think it was the Greek philosopher Epictetus who opined, “Imagine the worst, and you can never be disappointed.” (I like to think Epictetus met his end by being eaten by a shark while swimming in the Aegean. I believe that's what happens whenever you go swimming in open water, but it means Epictetus would not have died disappointed.)
It occurs to me that had the Native Americans served up something other than a delectable, mouth watering roast turkey with candied yams and crescent rolls - say maybe fried rattlesnake and brightly painted pebbles - the Thanksgiving tradition might never have gotten off the ground, and we wouldn't have to be dealing with any of this dysfunction today.
(I can see Carol now, reading this and shaking her head thinking, “What did his parents do to him?”)
They didn't serve rattlesnake with brightly painted pebbles is what they did to me.