I don’t know how many of you are following the Canadian calendar. Last Sunday was Thanksgiving. I know. It gets worse: the day after Thanksgiving is a national holiday so (this makes no sense) all the stores are closed.
What is a former US resident to do?
Where am I to shop the day after Thanksgiving?
I’ve not been home for Canadian Thanksgiving more than once or twice in all the years that I’d been gone. Because it’s just another weekend in America, it always seemed too much a big deal to take all that time off work, come home, eat, and then turn around again.
I took my old friend Noreen out to lunch yesterday. I kept saying that it didn’t at all seem like Thanksgiving last weekend. She said, “Is it a bigger deal down there? For us, it’s just an excuse to get together for a big meal … and that’s all.”
We both agreed that on TV and in the movies, it appears Americans treat their November Thanksgiving like it’s a big deal. It appears (again, based only on TV) to be the great big drive-across-five-states, get-the-family-together holiday. There’s a mythology attached to it, I believe. Have you read that new book by Susan Faludi, “The Terror Dream,” yet? Good book.
Contrarily, Canadians – at least in my experience – treat Christmas as though it’s more a reason to collect the family. I said to Noreen, “there’s no such thing as boxing day down there, so conceivably people are expected to work on Christmas Eve and then be back on the job the day after Christmas.”
In Canada, Christmas Day and the day after Christmas (called Boxing Day) are both paid holidays. Aside from that, here’s how things are around here. The government office here on the rez where Noreen works will close Friday the 22nd of December and re-open January 3rd. She’ll just get all that time off. I work in a building across the parking lot from her and I’m pretty sure that’s what will happen here too.
Not only do we live in one of the least religious countries on the planet, but we’re also on an Indian reservation and, honestly, quite a few of my friends and neighbors don’t even pretend to believe in Christianity. We have our own beliefs as Mohawk people. So why do we take so much time off work at Christmas?
When I was young, both Thanksgiving and Christmas were big events around here. Around noon or 1pm we’d eat with my mom’s family at her parent’s house, about a mile east from the home I grew up in. Then, around 4 or 5pm, we’d travel about a mile west of my house to dad’s parents where we’d eat again.
Mom says my dad’s mother used to be disappointed because we’d come in every year – Thanksgiving and Christmas – and just sit there while all the rest of the family ate, so we learned to eat “just enough” at one house so we could be able to eat “just enough” at the other.
Mom and Dad both were raised here – two miles away from each other, obviously – so when I was growing up I always resented the fact that so many of my dad’s brothers (who’d all married white women and moved away) would be forced to spend only part of their holidays with us. All my cousins had the luxuries of big city life, not to mention the luxuries that successful parents can provide, but when they had to leave to visit their other relatives – who didn’t live two miles away – I just felt sorry for them.
It’s amazing how vivid these memories come back now that I’m here again, under these fall skies that can’t decide whether to shine or submit to overcast until March. On these old back roads that have been updated to fit two lanes of traffic but still are not marked for it, I continually embarrass myself when I wave or don’t wave at people I should (or shouldn’t) wave at.
Who knew all those year ago, long before I left, that I’d be sitting here all these years later – passing time at a job with no direction that I jumped more than a couple hurdles to win – wishing I could just pop into a gay bar on the way home like I did in Nashville?
I love being here, don’t get me wrong. I committed to it, yes, so it’s funny now to look back at my infrequent visits and how I’d laugh that a handful of days around the family magically turned into too many once some arbitrary amount of time had passed.
Funny, because I didn’t know I’d miss drag queens, or the easy availability of good quality gay porn, or smart conversations about the state of our community.
Here, there are some of us who dress up for pow wows (no match for flamboyance), we enjoy the non-taxable life, and talk to no end about … well, the state of our community.
I suppose the big surprise, then, is how similar my experience here is.