Thanksgiving this year was a surprise.
For weeks, I looked forward to it as being a homecoming of sorts. It was the first Thanksgiving that my mom and I have had on our own since 2012, when we ate at Candle 79. We did the same this year, and I think a part of me expected the whole ritual to be as if nothing had changed. I thought it might momentarily feel the way things did before the end of my post-bacc, before coming back to New York, before me and Steven, and before some grievous losses in my mom’s life.
It didn’t, of course, and in spite of how badly I wanted to reclaim time this week, memories kept catching up to me. I spent the day or two before the holiday feeling broken open and weepy, rather than excited for time off or eager to celebrate. I’d had it in my mind that this Thanksgiving would somehow offset last year’s Thanksgiving, which was difficult for a lot of reasons.
That isn’t how it went, of course. My mom and I were together, as much of a team as ever, eating at the very same table we ate at for Thanksgiving 2012 (and with the same wonderful food). But we couldn’t help feeling certain absences: the loss of my grandmother and my mom’s partner, the dissolution of my relationship (which had become a part of both of our lives), and many other changes we’ve experienced separately and together in the last five years. It wasn’t a homecoming so much as a regrouping.
As it turned out, the weekend was full of other surprises, curveballs and unexpected bits and pieces that threw me for a loop. It wasn’t the peaceful holiday weekend I’d been counting on, but rather a disruptive couple of days that invited me to take stock of what’s important.
As I was reflecting on this yesterday, I kept coming back to a quote from Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart:
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
I’ve read these words so many times. Each time they’re a reminder that things will never cohere perfectly or permanently. Everything is always changing, but there can be peace and beauty in experiencing that motion.
When you’ve passed through a difficult period, it can be tempting to yearn for a delivery of good fortune, or for experience that feels redemptive somehow. You want suffering to have purpose, for pain to be justified by wisdom or abundance or growth. I’m a little embarrassed to say it out loud, but I’ve been wanting all of these things, badly, and I guess that I’d envisioned this holiday season as being a touchstone of sorts—a benchmark of how far I’d come from last year.
That’s not the point. And that’s not what the holiday was. Instead, it was an invitation for me to feel grateful for all of the things that have endured while so much else changes.
As I sit here this morning, I’m thinking about my bond with my mom, which shifts and expands and grows along with us. I’m thinking about my chosen family, many of whom I spoke to in the last few days. I’m thinking about being rooted in a place I love, and little festive traditions here in the city that I revisit happily each year. I’m looking back on my quiet evening walk yesterday along unusually empty downtown streets, so peaceful. I’m thinking about food, how much I savor and look forward to the rhythms of sitting down to eat each day.
I experience these things differently from year to year, as my life evolves. But I experience their sameness, too, and the constancy often feels like a thing of beauty. The holiday weekend wasn’t a celebration of things being “back to normal,” because there’s no normal, and time flows forward. But somehow it did end up feeling like a celebration of both permanence and impermanence, and the spaces in between.
If you observed the holiday this week, I hope that you found something meaningful to celebrate. If you didn’t, I hope you had a restful couple days. Enjoy the articles and the recipe links this week!
Looking for an alternative to oatmeal as usual? I’m loving Erin’s sweet potato einkorn porridge. It’s a genius way to use up leftover mashed sweet potatoes and to sweeten up breakfast nutritiously. (And it’s something I can make with the einkorn and kamut berries I’ve had in my pantry for too long.)
If oats are calling to you, Meredith’s savory mushroom oats would be a tasty choice for any meal or time of day.
What a beautiful, festive salad for the holiday season! Emily combines roasted delicata, fingerling potatoes, kale, and pomegranate seeds with a champagne vinaigrette in this colorful mixture.
Looking for the ultimate roasted fall veggie platter for holiday gatherings? Sue’s easy rainbow roasted veggies combine every color and texture in service of a dish that’s as simple as it is lovely.
Finally, I can’t get over how pretty and festive Jackie’s persimmon creme brûlée is. I’ve never even thought to attempt creme brûlée in vegan form—it seems like such a challenge—but she makes it look easy.
1. A fascinating, lyrical consideration of the value of sleep. This article isn’t about medicalized sleep therapies; on the contrary, it considers sleep as a human experience that transcends pure biology:
Medicalisation obscures sleep’s true nature – its breadth and depth and joy. It conceals the personal, transcendent and romantic dimensions of sleep. We are in dire need of restoring our sense of sleep’s mythic dimensions – of reimagining our personal experience of sleep. I believe this can be best accomplished through poetry, spirituality and, ultimately, personal investigation.
I’m a relatively minimal sleeper, and the article gave me a lot to think about.
2. A really interesting take on how the shift from reading out loud—once a cultural and intra-familial norm—to reading in private changed Westerners’ interior lives.
3. I found this portrait of one couple’s unusual approach to death and dying so touching.
4. Kathryn Schulz considers how and why human beings conjure up the fantastic and mythical beasts we do, and what makes these creatures believable.
5. I didn’t grow up in a home where a lot of dinner parties or entertaining happened—my mother didn’t really have the time, and if she had the inclination, I never knew about it, plus there was the issue of space in our little NYC apartment—but I’ve always loved the idea of them, if only because the reality always felt a little exotic. I enjoyed reading all of the articles in The New York Times‘ tribute to the dinner party.
And on that note, I’m wishing you all a good Sunday night. I’m back tomorrow with news of a fun new baking collaboration that has given me so much pleasure this fall, and I can’t wait to share it with you!