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Thanksgiving is a time to set that aside, and be happy about your life

The most memorable Thanksgiving was the last one with my mother. She had fixed an entire Thanksgiving dinner but made boxed stuffing. I knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. To make a long story short, the following Thursday, we were with my mom when the doctor told her she had small cell lung cancer!

My extended family is quite conservative and old school. I never was. In about 1981, when my son was 3, we were sitting with at least 20 others at my grandma's house enjoying the feast. I drool at the memory. My son, a bright and loquacious child, suddenly announced a revelation. "Hey! I drink the juice and then it comes out my penis!" Well, you could have heard a pin drop. One auntie even covered a baby's ears! Definitely one of the funniest memories of Thanksgiving ever.

On one hand, I love the holiday in a general, cultural sense. Most of the year, we Americans feel pressured to be ambitious, to never settle, never rest, never stop and enjoy life because we have to always be pushing ourselves to become better.

We feel the need to always have some optimistic plan about how we're going to make it big, become someone famous, etc. Most of the year, there is a constant pressure to never settle for what you have, and instead push for what you can get.

Thanksgiving is a time to set that aside, and be happy about your life. It's a time to reach out to those who you care about, in gratitude and joy that they are a part of your life. It's a giant pause in the year, that gives us permission to relax, be happy, and be grateful.

On the other hand, the actual experience of the holiday for me in recent years has been ... difficult. In past years, I would get together with family to celebrate, but now it's just me. Each year on Thanksgiving I feel a bit like Scrooge in Dickens' "Christmas Carol", when the Spirit of Christmas past shows him memories of brighter days.

Still, since it's just me, it makes sense to go ahead and volunteer to work the holiday, to let one of my coworkers get a chance to enjoy it with their family. I want them to have a happy Thanksgiving.

Only, working on Thanksgiving turns out to be very ... difficult. It's not the crowds-hotels are generally dead that week.

Everyone, guests and coworkers, random people on the street, ask about my Thanksgiving plans, over and over again. Each one is shocked that I'm not at home celebrating with family, because, in America, that is what you do. This leaves me with a choice: I can either spin a pretty little lie, drawing on past memories of brighter days, which leaves them happy, or I can answer with vague politeness, and hope that they get the hint and let it lie.

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