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From time to time, I’ll read a passage in a book or a magazine that sticks with me. Always the voracious reader — ever since overcoming dyslexia as a youth — I have a profound fascination with the written word, with the innate power words have when strung together in just the right way. Granted, I probably have too many little passages and caveats committed to memory, as evidenced by the general eye-rolling of my friends after each recitation. But as we head into the holiday season, two of my favorites strike me as being apropos.
In November 2001, Time magazine’s Nancy Gibbs wrote a moving Thanksgiving cover story. I remember sitting at my father’s kitchen table in Tucson, Arizona, and studying that story while I microwaved leftover turkey. It ran during a time when families nationwide were gathering to share in the abundance — both culinary and familial — that the Thanksgiving holiday traditionally brings and was a commentary on the intense patriotism they felt as they gathered to celebrate that fall. The fi rst line of Gibbs’s story immediately set the tone for the 7,000 words that followed: “Thanksgiving has always been a feast day for the gods of paradox.”
And it has. We don’t always like taking a trip on the busiest travel days of the year, but when we get to where we’re going, we realize it’s all been worthwhile. We dread the visit from those relatives we choose not to talk about, yet we miss them when they’re gone. And we elect to remember only the good times — isn’t selective memory great sometimes? — while giving thanks for all our blessings, good fortune, and rights.
Gibbs’s lead has become a one-liner in my lexicon. But here’s another, and I think it dovetails nicely with Gibbs’s point about Thanksgiving:
“What you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay …”
It’s a passage from a legend of a book that speaks about a bygone time in American history. Maya Angelou, whom we are honored to have gracing our cover, has long been considered one of our literary treasures. This opening line from her seminal book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has a significant meaning for me, especially around the holidays. Angelou was talking about her life in the Jim Crow South and how it was so oppressive that she couldn’t imagine a united United States. But now, in contemporary times, as we stare down the barrel of another calendar year, we’ve finally wrapped up one of the most historic and important presidential elections in our nation’s history. And as we gather around dining-room tables across the country and celebrate the holiday with freshly baked pumpkin pie, the challenge will be to foster that same sense of family and country we feel now for the next 364 days. Nancy Gibbs knows this. And Maya Angelou knows this — only too well, which is why I encourage you to read our cover story, “Giving Thanks,” and reflect upon what you’re thankful for.
So as you’re readying yourself for whatever Thanksgiving travel awaits you and as you’re steeling yourself for the commotion that is a family reunion, take pleasure in all the food, the football, and every last one of those idiosyncratic relatives. For maybe this is the year that some of the Thanksgiving holiday spirit comes to stay.
Send Adam your stories from the skies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.