Memorial Day: Taking the Time to Say Thanks

'Flags-In' at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day 2008

To join the military is to accept that duty may ultimately require you to lay down your life. Despite growing up in a military family, this never occurred to me, and it certainly never occurred to me to be grateful for this sacrifice.

After I moved to New York City post-9/11 I saw a civilian approach a man in military garb and personally thank him for his service to our country.

And then another approached and did the same thing.

And then another.

The sight shocked and humbled me.

This man was on his way to Afghanistan because his duty led him there. Anything could happen. He could come back physically unscathed but wracked with PTSD…or he could not come back at all.

And yet, he knew where his duty lay and he was going quietly, boldly towards it…and no fewer than three stoic, angry New Yorkers approached him personally to say thanks.

What if we all took the time to say thanks?

Just one moment out of one day to acknowledge that the things we have and enjoy are the direct result of the actions of others.

What a good idea.

Turns out, there is a national moment of silence at 3pm every year on Memorial Day to honor all of the fallen American soldiers from all wars in history.

Well.

I intend to celebrate Memorial Day in the traditional way, with barbecue and 5K races and water sports and snow cones and pie. I intend to enjoy my freedom and take advantage of all this holiday has to offer.

And yet…

I am also going to take a moment at 3pm to say thanks.

My (New) Thanksgiving Tradition

Not-So-Festive Thanksgiving Table Setting

Whether your traditions are old or new, there is always room for people. Growing up in a military family we never spent the holidays in the same place. No matter who hosted us, however, my fondest memory is trying to fit everyone around the holiday table.

As an adult living la vie Boehme in New York City, most people eat their holiday meals in studio apartments on couches or even the floor. This was an appalling adjustment for me. It didn’t seem fair.

So, being resourceful (as an NYC transplant must be), I made the best decision of my life: I bought a dining table and insisted on hosting Thanksgiving dinner each year.

My table is magical.

The first time someone comes into my home for a holiday they see the table, the china, the candles, the servingware, and they usually gasp with delight and say, “Wow, you have a TABLE? It’s just like going home!” Somehow, a carefully set table with a dozen or more places, a clever centerpiece, and a 23-pound turkey make us all feel comforted and happy.

My old tradition of jostling family members for the best seats at the family table has transitioned into my new tradition: making the community of family-less Bohemians of New York City feel warm, welcome, and at home for the holidays.

I’m sure I’ll continue tweaking my traditions to fit into my chaotic life, but one thing will always remain constant: Thanksgiving is about connecting with people, and my beautiful table helps us NYC Bohemians celebrate the holidays as we were meant to do: with family.

What is your Thanksgiving tradition? Have you been to the same seat at the same table for the last 30 years? Or are you a nomad like me? Do you spend your Thanksgivings watching football, or do you rest in preparation for Black Friday shopping?

Image credit: BFS Man