Is Thanksgiving Just Better in Maine?
How many people have I heard this week saying that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday? I lost count by Wednesday; the sentiment seems pretty widespread.
What's odd is that nobody bothers to elaborate. I mean, why not Christmas, or Easter, or the Fourth of July? Explain, please. But they don't. The conversations go like this:
A. Thanksgiving is my my favorite holiday.
B. Mine too!
Except for one that went:
C. Not Halloween?
I wonder how much of this is a Maine thing — as opposed to a 2010 thing, a middle-age thing, or a thing that's existed all along but escaped my notice until now.
Let's consider the Maine-centric hypothesis, which I will state as follows: Something about Thanksgiving is uniquely pleasing to folks lucky enough to live down east.
This makes a certain amout of sense. In Maine we have, at a rough count, three separate grades of autumn. The first begins in September and consists of a string of beautiful warm days and cool nights. It lingers for a month or longer; for many Mainers, it's the nicest time of the year. Toward the end, the leaves are in full color and this is the most glorious place on earth. Then suddenly comes Autumn 2.0. The wind howls out of the north and a cold rain lashes the windshield. Down come all those pretty leaves, occasionally with large tree limbs attached. We barricade ourselves indoors and contract deathly viruses. There are still a thousand chores to get done before winter. We become gloomy and prone to irrational behavior, notably at the ballot box.
Thanksgiving marks the advent of Autumn 3.0 — or maybe 3.1, the debugged version. Things are calmer, the chores are done, the kids are settled in school. We are not in the mood to celebrate, exactly. Christmas right now would be too much. But the prospect of sitting down in a warm room with family and friends and eating good food and maybe catching a football game — that seems right on the mark. Even the meek, who are tasked with cleaning up, are not overly fussed about it, for they shall inherit the kingdom of leftovers.
That's not even counting the giving-thanks part. But I figure there's nothing distinctly Maineish about the universal sentiment of gratitude.
The 2010 hypothesis — that Thanksgiving is especially welcome this year — also merits consideration. I, for one, have found myself turning progressively inward over the past several months. I quit following the news sometime back in August. Maybe it's a professional affliction, but I've had W.B. Yeat's famous lines from "The Second Coming" running on an endless mental loop:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Probably I should find a barricade to man somewhere, shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers and sisters who stand accused of undermining marriage, spitting on our troops, plotting to confiscate firearms, and otherwise destroying America. But for the nonce, a crowded Thanksgiving dinner table offers a nice chance to be shoulder-to-shoulder with somebody. And also to hog the gravy.
I shall not dwell on the middle-age hypothesis, which holds, in brief, that Christmas and certain other holidays don't really apply to us. We have important roles to play in them, but mostly they're for the wee folk. God bless them.
So finally we come to the possibility that Thanksgiving has always been the best day of the year, and I'm just now coming to understand that. Quite possible, I would say. I'm often the last to recognize the obvious, which provides a source of amusement to my students and offspring alike. Too much time with the head stuck in books, perhaps. (Or lately, too much time with the eyes stuck on the iPad.)
When writing about Thanksgiving, it's customary, if not de rigueur, to include a tally of things for which one is personally grateful. I won't weary you with that; my list is probably similar to yours. And for that matter, to that of the guy up the road who has actually put more LePage signs on his lawn since election day.
Maybe Yeats was right in warning that "the centre cannot hold." But it looks pretty solid with a fat brown bird smack in the middle of it.