Happy, thankful, and not dead

Hey! Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I’ve officially outlived the composer who wrote “Oh, Susanna!” And Marie Antoinette. You’re luckier than several dead people, too. Check it out.

And speaking of death, thanks to the H-Net social sciences network for creating H-Death. In all seriousness, I was looking for calls for papers and journals focusing on death studies, and H-Death is just what I need for those conference papers languishing in a drawer (in a fake file cabinet on a user interface that pretends to keep things in drawers but really uses magnets to draw them on silica or something.)

Power to the living, y’all. Happy Thanksgiving. Glad you’re not dead.

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Really? You’re gonna thank them?

I’d like to thank the ants who came charging into the house today. Thank you for finding whatever it was you found in the silverware drawer. I’ve been meaning to take everything out and soak it in hot, soapy, vinegar water. You’ve given me a reason to do it today and for that I am thankful.

I’m also appreciative of the people who stop in parking lots and wait, desperately, for anyone walking by to identify one of the parked cars as theirs. Thank you for holding up the dozens of people behind you. Without you we might have been able to proceed with our days. But because you made parking take almost 30 minutes, I got to hear the wonderful tricks my 4 year old used to keep my screaming infant from blowing an artery. It’s a good thing you didn’t just drive normally until you found a parking space farther away. Then I wouldn’t know how resourceful my son is. I surely am grateful to you.

Thank you, terrible parent in front of me in line at the store today. Because you bought for your child every piece of crap he whined for, my son is starting to doubt our family’s system. Thank you for encouraging his critical thinking skills. Here I had him unquestioningly following the policy that we don’t buy things unless it’s already on our list; and that special purchases like toys have to be on a holiday list from which loved ones may choose to buy or not to buy. Thanks to you, Parent Making Interesting Choices, my son is interrogating our system and querying into our family’s stance on democracy. Lessons on thinking for himself and governing systems in one day. What a thanksgiving blessing. Thank you.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank the cat for waking me up almost every hour last night. If it weren’t for you, Cat One, I might have missed the beginning of the baby’s crying. All five times that he woke and raged about something or other. Of course, had you not been thumping around and yowling, the baby might not have woken. But then I wouldn’t be able to practice my catatonic calculations about which soothing technique to use on him. Thanks, kitty, for keeping me sharp. Except for the part where waking me every hour dulls my ability to function or think. That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, Cat One. That’s why you’ll be sleeping in the garage tonight. And for that I am thankful.

Thanksgiving for Santa.

Peanut has been in an intense no-sharing mood for almost a year. So he’s intrigued lately with the concept of giving presents. You give someone stuff, but you’re not sharing. It’s not yours; it’s theirs. You don’t get it back. There is no control after the giving. But there is control in the choosing.

He likes this.

He’s picked out birthday presents for friends, telling me exactly what his friends get and what they don’t. He usually picks out something for himself, too, though he’s perfectly willing to have it put away until birthday, Hanukkah, Christmas, Nana’s birthday (which is a great holiday at our house–Nana’s birthday is a couple days before Christmas, after the all important Solstice. Nana’s birthday is a holiday nobody else gets (except, well, Nana). We love Nana’s birthday. We get presents for no other reason than because we’re lucky enough to have her in our family.)

So we’ve been talking about Santa in our house for two years, because I knew it would come up, and, like making spiders and owls and wolves friendly, and fairy tales completely non-scary, I wanted to manage how this once-benevolent and now out-of-control commercialist holiday is portrayed in our house. I want him to believe in magic and hope and love, but not in getting stuff because you’re good. So I researched Santa Claus and found that the original dude, on whom the St. Nick character is based, was intensely into charity. He gave to the needy. That, Spouse and I discussed, is something we can be down with.

We taught Peanut that Santa, when he was around, gave to people who need. Santa’s not around anymore, but remembering him makes people want to give. True. Not as true as I’d like it to be, but still. (And yes, I did just teach my kid that Santa’s dead. So? He’s a myth. He’s fun to talk about and believe, and being honest now makes it less upsetting to find out later that Santa’s a myth.)

So each year, as often as we can, we give to people who need. After we moved, a truck came to take all the gently used things that we don’t need anymore, but another family might. He was totally fine giving stuff to the truck, because we said it was like Santa’s truck. When we read books about Christmas and Santa has a bag of toys, we tell him that it’s like the fire station and the library having Toys for Tots barrels. Santa has a bag of toys because the family left them out for Santa to take to people who need. Santa’s not bringing to the people in the stories. He’s taking, so he can redistribute. (That’s called being nice, you pre-election hatemongers.)

So I asked Peanut what he wanted to do for Christmas to help like Santa. Last year he wanted to bring toys to the dogs and cats at the local shelter. He loved every minute of giving, in part because he got to choose which dog got which ball, and which cat got which feather. This year he wants to bring apricots to the Food Bank. Because he says they don’t need raisins, but “if they need apricots, I give them apricots.”

Then he said, and I won’t let him forget this ever, that maybe some people just need someone to cuddle them. Maybe, like the babies Grandma cuddles at the hospital, maybe some people just need friends. He would like to find them, he said, and listen to them and cuddle them and make them feel better.

So that’s what we’re doing for Thanksgiving. We’re going to try the local retirement community, and see how he reacts to cuddling seniors. He tends to be wary of older people, so that might not work. Then we’ll bring apricots to the Food Bank.

And we will head to the animal shelter again this year. At least once a month. Because those dang critters love them some attention. And though it’s hard for me not to bring them all home, it makes Peanut feel very important to cuddle small creatures who don’t have families yet. He needs to feel important. And lots and lots of people and pets this year need love. So Spouse and I are going to try to meet as many of those needs as we can, and teach Peanut in the process that the best thing you can do is give.

Santa didn’t come to our house last year, and won’t be coming to our house this year. We don’t need anything. But we’ll make sure that we help whomever we can.

So let us know if you need a cuddle. ‘Cuz we’re ready for ya.