This Thanksgiving it'll be just my mom and me at the table. I'll still be thankful.
- This Thanksgiving, it will be only my mom and me at the table.
- The extended family that once gathered has slowly made plans of their own.
I call my parents, aunts, and uncles "The Glue Generation."
They exuded gravitas that none of us who came after could. For the five decades I've been alive, they've ensured everyone joins their Thanksgiving table in New Jersey: first cousins, first cousins' kids, their kids, and me. We didn't argue, but we didn't have much in common. Still, we loved each other.
But that went only so far during the holidays. The Glue Generation's adhesive weakened as its members vanished. This year, some relatives are joining in-laws. Others who moved decided not to come back. A few are taking a trip. There is no ill will, but slowly everyone moved on.
I did a quick head count for Thanksgiving dinner a week ago, and it was just two: my mother and me. That stung.
I'm a single only child
The term never changed, even though I did. As I aged, still having the word "child" attached to my identity was disconcerting. Friends were "older brothers," "little sisters," or "third of fourth." Add the word "single" to my official societal title, and it felt like a maintenance hole that could swallow me whole. If I were to get a tattoo, "Single Only Child" would hardly be it, though it would explain why it's just the two of us this Thanksgiving.
I let a few girlfriends get away through the years, and let's not get into that. I still put in the effort to find my companion, but it's still very much just me.
I also liked the big turkey because a bit of wishing could complement my effort: I have worked out the physics of force, area, and torque, and I was pretty unbeatable at winning the wishbone snap. We may not do a whole turkey. But I have kept up with my fantasy of starting my own tradition with a spouse, a kid, and in-laws, a hearty group of festive football fans drinking and arguing politics.
I'm still going to be thankful
Once the swelling from the sting of a Thanksgiving-for-two healed, I focused on being thankful. Single only children have one hard-earned trait: resilience. Even at a quiet table, I will put aside the urge to mope, and be thankful.
My father would have wanted me to. We lost his contribution to the gravitas that kept us together several years ago, and at 6-foot-6, he exuded a lot of it. He was a force of nature. The night before Thanksgiving, my mother, father, our dog, and I would make sides and apple pie, eat half the pie, and try to shape it up so it still looked presentable. The next morning, we all dressed sharp because we wanted to show we were the stylish ones.
I'm thankful I still have my mother to remind me of all this and join me this year. My parents put me on the path to carving out my little space in New York with friends, health, and work. I took that for granted — but not anymore.
There's melancholy here. Our Glue Generation created what they were missing when they were new here; the family was all they had. They made us understand, year after year, that we would be a family even after they were gone, even if we didn't get together as often. Even if we're not with each other, we need to be available for each other. It took the glue dissolving to be thankful for that lesson.
I'm also thankful I'll get a turkey leg this year.
Matthew Morchower is a writer living in New York who has contributed to The New York Times, Wired, and The Independent. He is also a corporate-communications writer and producer.
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