Being Canadian, I don't have the same baggage about family gatherings at Thanksgiving as my American friends. But I do enjoy family gatherings and we will have some extra company as well. One friend from Brazil and 2 from Malawi.
One of my favourite Thanksgiving memories is from my time at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York - a while ago now, since I was pregnant with DD the elder at the time. I was put in charge of the Lab Thanksgiving because my husband and I had no family around so we were the perfect people to organize things. It was a communal feast for all those who were far away from home, or in some cases, who didn't want to cook. The food services people provided turkeys and pies and a few other dishes, and everyone brought food, usually dishes from home, so it was an international feast. Imagine if you will, a nice, large dining room (the building had been recently renovated) looking over the Harbor. Lots of food and talking and good smells. Everyone gathered around loading their plates. My husband was in charge of carving one of the turkeys. At one point, he looked down and realized he was about to cut somebody's fingers because they were picking out a piece of turkey! He was horrified to think he might have cut somebody and looked up to see it was James Watson - the Lab director and Nobel prize winner for his DNA structure work! The turkeys were carved with no injury and no further close calls, but I still remember that day.
With our closest family member 7 hours away, we do sometimes miss going to family gatherings. I especially like the time after a meal when we can all sit around and talk, since before the meal, somebody is in a panic getting all the food out. But it seems to me that with computer technology, I can get some of that time back.
It all started when Candy died and my husband put an album of photos of her on his Facebook page. My mother joined Facebook to see the photos and she started having fun checking things out. Then she found my niece on there - I had only been using Facebook for work and never thought to look for family - what was I thinking? And then we got another family member to join, and found another one online, and so on...
So now we are leaving comments, sending gifts, and playing Wordscraper (very addicting) and now I am enjoying family gatherings online, albeit over several days. I agree that sometimes and hour long phone conversation is great, but some days, a stolen few minutes here and there to add a comment or view a status report or play a word are all I can manage, and those moments keep us in touch. I remember reading an article a while back* about texting and Twitter sustaining long distance relationships, and my husband and I have discovered that texting during the day is a great way to keep track of things, and I guess using the same tools to keep up with family on a day to day basis is a good way to feel a part of their lives. And when you know some of what is going on in a person's life, you can ask more questions when you do talk on the phone.
So this year I am thankful for all sorts of family gatherings.
*yes I am a librarian and I should have a citation here for the article, but at this moment I can't remember where it was at all and I have to get back to work, so maybe later I'll put it here, but in the meantime, you'll have to trust me.
Photo: see the original post