Single White Nerd: Happy Thanksgiving, Nerds!
a blogumn by Michael Kass
The thanksgiving part of Thanksgiving is a relatively new presence in my holiday life. I mean, my family had Thanksgiving when I was growing up. My parents and I would trundle up to New Jersey and spend the evening in my grandparents’ one bedroom rent-controlled apartment eating take-out from Boston Market. My grandmother would complain about the meat, my grandfather would tell her to shut up, my mother would knit and my father and I would sit in the corner being quiet. At no point did we go around in a circle and share feelings of thanks.
So when I found myself at Thanksgiving a few years ago with a group of people and they started giving thanks, I had no idea what to do. Everyone had something profound to say. Allison was thankful for a poem that her sister had written for her. Bobby gave thanks for the chance to play catch with his son. Jillian came to tears talking about how grateful she was to have found her fiancee. Heartfelt stuff. I got the feeling that these folks had maybe been thinking about this moment all year.
When it came time for me to give thanks, I found myself flummoxed. “Well,” I stammered, “I guess. I mean, this is a great meal. I’m grateful for turkey and everything, I guess. And friends. You guys are awesome. So thanks for that.” Everyone nodded appreciatively, but I could tell that I had failed some kind of Gratitude Test.
Since then, my efforts at Thanksgiving have improved slightly. But every year it has felt a little too general. A little false. Not genuine.
This year will be different. It will be different because I have met a woman. And I am thankful for her.
For the past couple of weeks, a friend and I have been walking around Silver Lake Reservoir in the morning. That’s where I met her. This woman. Sort of.
We were walking and she appeared on the horizon, a diminutive figure hobbling towards us. We got closer and she became more clear—an elderly woman in a trenchcoat. Oversized hat perched on her head. Garish red lipstick slathered over her lips and part of her face. My friend and I exchanged a glance.
As we passed by, it happened: the woman’s arm extended and a sound of pure joy emanated from her mouth area. “HI!” she squealed, giggling with happiness. She waved at us with such force that I was afraid she might topple over.
“Good morning,” my friend and I said in unison.
We passed the woman. And we immediately started giggling not in derision, but with the kind of abandon usually reserved for five-year-olds who have just discovered chocolate. This woman, whoever she was, had unlocked the floodgates of Happy River and we were surfing the waves. Of happiness. From the river.
Now, having done this morning walk for the past couple of weeks, I find myself looking forward to see the Woman of the Reservoir as the sun rises. At this point, she doesn’t even throw words at us. She just flings out her arm and makes a “Wuaaahahaha, yayyy!” sound. This woman, friends, she is magical. For all I know, she may have to escape from her padded cell or assisted living facility every morning to toddle around a polluted pond, but that in no way diminishes her magicality.
So here’s what I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving: for the power we have to experience joy, no matter how old or young we are. For our ability to affect others with something as simple as a smile and a gesture. And for a random woman who brightens my mornings with her guttural emanations of happy-joy.
Take that, Allison, Bobby and Jillian.
Happy Thanksgiving, Nerds!