I spent most of the weekend reading a dissertation for a defense this week, so this brief note is coming a little later than intended. In fact, now that we are in the last few weeks of the semester, a lot of things are going to be a little later than intended. But I did want to post this before too much time passed.
Last Friday, I celebrated “Zoomsgiving.” That is, my family and I all got together on Zoom and hung out for a bit. My parents spent most of the time frozen because of their crappy internet out in the boondocks—they have a hamster wheel hooked up to an old War Games-era modem—but otherwise it was nice.
I know that Thanksgiving was a big concern for a lot of people Stateside, caught between the reality of the pandemic and the desire to get together with family for a treasured tradition. It wasn’t such a big deal for me, of course, as Thanksgiving isn’t something I normally celebrate anymore. I have celebrated it in the past—one year HJ and I cooked a turkey with all the trimmings at her parents’ house, for example, and on other occasions I have gotten together with friends and/or colleagues to commemorate the holiday—but it hasn’t been the big family tradition that it was for me when I was growing up in the States.
The last “real” Thanksgiving I celebrated was when we were in Cambridge in 2017, when I was on sabbatical. We attended a church there and became very close with our church family, and when one of the church members—a lovely woman named Ruth—learned that we were going to be in town but did not have any plans for the holiday, she invited us to dinner at her house with her (very large!) family. It had been so long since I had done something like that, and it was really nice. We were definitely welcomed in as part of their family, and I think it was the closest I’ve come to what I remember Thanksgiving being like when I was young.
Friday morning’s session was nothing like that, of course, since it was online and there was no food, but ironically enough it was the first Thanksgiving I have spent with my family in over a quarter of a century. There have been a number of Christmases over the years that we’ve been able to spend together, but since Thanksgiving falls in the middle of the semester, we’ve just never had the opportunity. So I guess, even in the midst of all the craziness that is life now, that is something to be thankful for.
With Thanksgiving over now, I suppose we are now into the Christmas season. Indeed, when we tuned into our church service this morning (again, online), there was a Christmas tree on the platform. I don’t know why, but the first Christmas decorations and the first Christmas music always take me by surprise, and it always feels like it is too soon, like a joke about a tragedy that happened not too long ago. That may seem like a weird comparison, but I have roughly the same cringey reaction to both. Maybe it’s because the beginning of the Christmas season always seems to come at the busiest time of the fall semester, when I’m not in a very celebratory mood. As I mentioned above, I spent the weekend reading a dissertation, and there’s a lot more of that to come next week. Then it will be on to grading and such. Maybe after that it will start feeling like Christmas. For now, though, I’m still trying to keep in mind the things I am thankful for, especially given how crazy everything has been and continues to be. I hope that wherever you are you are safe, healthy, and have something to be thankful for as well.