Shannyn Moore: Keep Thanksgiving for grace and gratitude

Shannyn Moore

The holidays have become markers of people and places I miss. Trust me, I realize this makes me sound older than I am, but I'm feeling the time-space continuum.

The cabin I grew up in feels a million miles away even though I still drive past it on my way to Homer. I haven't been inside it since April 1, 1984 -- the day we moved to town. My folks, like so many, had moved far away from their families and started a new one with friends they picked. Our "family" connection was so tight I was stunned to find out "Uncle" Tom's parents weren't my real grandparents.

The original Thanksgiving was about harvesting local, and many of our celebrations had spruce hens, moose, crab or halibut. It made sense to me. I knew early that corn wouldn't grow in Alaska because it doesn't get dark when it's warm.

Snowmachining and ice skating kept us busy over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a strange time -- when Christmas came after Halloween and Thanksgiving in the stores, as well as on the calendar.

My most memorable turkey day was a few years ago. I cooked for days, and our home was filled with close friends and the group I deemed "The Lost Boys." I felt like Wendy making pies. They were friends I knew would be alone were they not with us.

One was a friend just a week from being deployed to the war. Another was retired medical worker and veteran Roger Ranch (who died the next year), a neighbor who loved nothing more than to argue politics with me and then compliment my cooking and taste in music. We all happily shared a room, a table and each other's presence.

Again, a million miles away -- like a time capsule.

This year my family sits on the cusp of the passing of my Aunt Hettie. We'll use her recipe for rolls like every year since I was born.

Holidays ought to make us reflect on our past, what we've lost, what we've loved, what we have. But it seems like the push is to take away from those moments. It's about shopping. Black Friday now starts Thursday evening. The Christmas Industrial Complex is taking over Thanksgiving -- a day where we should take stock in what we have, not stocking up.

Like me, you may find it hard not to be nostalgic and a little bit sad at Thanksgiving. It's OK to stop crimping the pie crust and feel the absence of those you have loved. Cry. Feel and bear witness to relationships forged and lost.

Or you could shop. A lazy snooze on the couch, a final glass of wine, a leisurely group kitchen cleanup can now be replaced with standing on line in the freezing cold with strangers, waiting to elbow your way to the front of the line at a store.

Did I just give you whiplash?

Thanksgiving should be a time to consider what we're thankful for. I don't want to hear about all the super-consumption opportunities I need to set an alarm for. Will there be a trampling this year to get to the flat screens? Seriously?

I could go on about how box stores are requiring workers to show up Thanksgiving night but I'm sure many need the work since they are paid pathetic wages and want to provide for their families. (Walmart's wages are so low their employees are subsidized with federal programs to the tune of $1.5 billion a year. Yes. With a 'B.' That saves one of the wealthiest companies on the planet money by transferring their operating costs to you and me.)

It's a theft that depersonalizes one of the last holidays that is so intimately personal -- no gifts, no ruckus -- just people and gratitude, and sharing food and conversation. It's the time away from friends and family. The memories not made. That's what's lost.

In my family, after Pop says the blessing, the tradition is to go around the table and let everyone name something they're grateful for.

I am grateful for many things. What will I be remembering next year as I crimp the pie crust? Which memories will sneak up on me -- bringing a smile or a tear. Right now, I'm thankful for the present and will hold it tight.

I gratefully gave up my place in line.


Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. statewide on ABC affiliates KYUR Channel 13 Anchorage, KATN Fairbanks and KJUD Juneau.


Shannyn Moore