“We have to go to The Farm for Thanksgiving,” said my wife, Christy.
This wasn’t an offhand remark or a wish tossed out for consideration. Nope. It was time for us to reconnect with her family in the Deep South. “The Farm” is where my father-in-law grew up in Pigeon Creek, Alabama. He has lots of brothers and sisters, and Thanksgiving is when everyone goes back to The Farm for a big family gathering.
For travelers, Thanksgiving is something of a trigger. Just say the word and some flyers start to twitch. At most airports, this is the biggest travel weekend of the year. It’s also a big day for shopping, for sports and for pies of all stripes.
Peel away the crowds and the retail frenzy, though, and you’ll find the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday are rooted in gratitude. Our current version of the big feast in November started as a harvest celebration in the 17th century. Later, President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of thanks in the midst of the Civil War.
At the heart of Thanksgiving is one of our oldest sacraments: gathering around the table to share a meal.
For those of us in Alaska, it’s a little more complex than going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. There is time off work to be arranged, plane tickets to purchase, cars to be rented and other plans to be made. It can be an expensive proposition. But flying off to see far-flung family members is part of our Alaskan lifestyle.
What’s interesting is this is not necessarily a “vacation.” Some Alaskans came north, frankly, to get away from their families. But for those of us contemplating a trip back home, the pull is strong. Our desire to share stories, see the kids, meet the new girlfriend and give Dad a big hug outweigh the inconvenience. We’re able to set aside our differences (politics, religion, lifestyle) for at least one day to catch up and pose for pictures.
At my sister’s church in Oregon, they do a monthlong exercise called “30 Days of Gratitude.” The project encourages you to note and share something you’re grateful for each day. It could be family, friends, pets, a car that works, a home that’s safe or a good job. And by the end of the month, at Thanksgiving, well, you have a better idea of all the things for which you are grateful.
Deep in the heart of rural Butler County, Alabama, there usually is at least one person who asks how long it took us to drive from Anchorage. I didn’t say it out loud, but as the blessing was being said over our Thanksgiving feast, I was thankful for the opportunity to fly 3,520 miles instead of driving.
Travelers are a grateful lot, I think. Part of the reason is there are so many things to go wrong. Plus, there are lots of other people who have to work together for a successful trip. This is one day, for example, when I am thankful for the TSA people. Seriously: I hope they have a great day with their friends and family so they won’t hold up the line as I’m going through. I’m thankful for the baggage handlers, for the car rental counter staff, for the air traffic controllers — for everyone.
But I say an extra prayer of thanksgiving each and every night before I go to bed. It’s a big “thank you” to airlines who compete for travelers. That’s why there are some especially good travel deals for flying in January and February.
Here are some of my favorite deals that are available right now:
• Anchorage or Fairbanks-Seattle: $89 one-way on Alaska Air or Delta. Travel between Jan. 6 and March 3.
• Anchorage-Los Angeles/LAX: $148 one-way nonstop on Alaska Air. Fly Jan. 8-Feb. 11.
• Anchorage or Fairbanks-San Diego: $132 one-way on Alaska Air. Fly Jan. 7-March 1.
• Anchorage-Chicago: $166 one-way on Alaska Air. Fly Jan. 6-Feb. 28.
• Anchorage-New York/JFK: $198 one-way on Alaska Air. Fly Jan. 7-Feb. 28.
If you’re in the market for some exotic trips during 2020, watch these sites for some Cyber Monday specials:
• Air New Zealand. The carrier typically offers special rates just on Cyber Monday from Los Angeles/LAX to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands.
• Singapore Air. With its new nonstop from Seattle to Singapore, travelers can rack up lots of Alaska Air miles. We’ll be watching these offers closely.
My exotic trip this week included traveling to the Greenville, Alabama, public library. There, I was thankful for a fast, free Wi-Fi connection. Then, it was over to BBQ65 for a delicious “Six Bone Plate” of ribs with a couple of side dishes.
That’s OK with me, though. I’m thankful we strengthened the family connection over the holiday. The chairs were a little rickety. The tea was pretty sweet. Everybody complained that it was “too cold” even though it was 61 degrees out. We held hands and said the blessing with grateful hearts. The turkey was fine, but the pie selection was something to write home about. They know all about pecan pies in the South.
Too soon, it was time to leave. There were lots of folks who kept saying, “Y’all come back now, y’hear!” All I could think of was that pecan pie. And I’m grateful for that.