The Day Before

I love the day before Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite days of the year.

I can remember this as far back as early high school, when my aunt and uncle took us to Red Wings hockey games for a few consecutive years on the evening before Thanksgiving. We’d have dinner at Pizza Papalis in Greektown, maybe ride the People Mover (Detroit’s elevated rail in central downtown), and I remember the thrum of excitement in the city as it prepared for its early morning Turkey Trot run and annual Thanksgiving Day parade (it’s not Macy’s, but it’s big!). This wasn’t a long-standing tradition by any means, but I still cling to the excitement of those few years.

There’s something wonderful about ‘the day before.” Often, we were packing or leaving to visit family for the holiday, or beginning to prepare food for the next day’s feast. It’s the day my mom makes peanut-butter-kiss cookies, which at some point became our traditional Thanksgiving cookie instead of Christmas. And now, it’s usually the night I set the cranberries to popping on the stove so the sauce is plenty chilled before serving.

Just last year, our first day-before-Thanksgiving in a new town, I spent the day with a coworker, making birds’ nests out of Spanish moss and Elmer’s glue (you can imagine how messy that was!). It was a gloomy but relaxed day: we chatted with other coworkers who stopped by, and we took a break to have pizza for lunch. When I went to pick it up, the commercial area by the freeway exit was teeming with cars, full of people on their way to visit family and friends. (We live at a very popular stopping place for travelers on two different interstates.) The hum was in the air here, too, and once I got off work, we headed out ourselves to visit family.

Sometimes, the day before is almost better than the day itself. The day before has its own bubbling excitement, its own milieu of anticipation.

This Thanksgiving is looking a lot different for me, as I’m sure it’s looking for everyone. The day before has lost some of its luster, knowing that the day itself will, in many ways, be anticlimactic. We won’t travel. We won’t be with the family or friends we love. And we’ll refrain from doing all this so that, eventually, we can have our holidays back. Likely not Christmas this year, and maybe not Easter, either. It might still be awhile.

But maybe instead of celebrating “the day before Thanksgiving,” we should celebrate, “the Thanksgiving before.” This is a different time, with plenty of challenges for sure, but also with its own feel and its own thrill. It will be quieter, less stressful, and, just maybe, more thankful. Because this year we realized that what we had was tenuous and could so easily be taken away.

I think we’ll get it back, eventually. I hope this is “the Thanksgiving before” we return to something closer to normal, but not before we have plenty of time to be thankful for it.

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