Thankful for some peace and quiet
Every year, my parents act surprised when I tell them I’m coming home for Thanksgiving.
“Will you be joining us for Thanksgiving?” they ask. “Or do you have other plans?”
I’m usually perplexed by their bafflement.
“Of course I’m coming home,” I typically reply. “What else would I do?”
I don’t know why I always respond to queries about my Thanksgiving plans in such a surly manner.
Because here’s the thing: I don’t always go home for Thanksgiving. Sometimes I stay local, or go to a friend’s place. Whenever I opt out of celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, I have a reason. One year, I stayed in town for a funeral. When I lived in Birmingham, Ala., I preferred to travel at Christmas and spent my Thanksgivings with my great-uncle Frank and his wife.
I’ve never minded spending Thanksgiving away from my family, though I wouldn’t want to do it every year. And this year, I’m really looking forward to spending the holiday with my family. But I wouldn’t be that disappointed if bad weather or some other snag made it impossible for me to travel.
I have friends I could spend the day with, and I’m sure I’d have a lot of fun. I also like the way my neighborhood feels when it empties out, which is what happens on holidays. Some people might find this lack of activity and people boring, but I consider it a refreshing change of pace. With the quiet and calm comes a sense of peace, as well as freedom. While others are tied to busy holiday travel schedules, I can do as I please.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that the best way to appreciate a family Thanksgiving is to take a year off every once in a while. Some of my friends have adopted a similar strategy. A friend in New Jersey usually spends his Thanksgiving with friends; another friend has decided to stay in Albany rather than travel to Pennsylvania and Long Island to see family.
“I just don’t want to drive,” this particular friend said.
But I suspect he’s also looking forward to some peace and quiet.
After all, AAA estimates this year’s Thanksgiving travelers will total 43.4 million, and 90 percent of those people will travel by automobile. When I see numbers like that, my friend’s aversion to driving seems totally reasonable.
My favorite holidays tend to be the quiet ones. The busier and noisier and crazier a holiday gets, the less it feels like a holiday to me.
“What do you want to do while you’re home?” my parents inquired about a week ago.
“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t want to do anything.”
Which isn’t completely true. I want to eat good food and read and go for walks on the beach. My sister and I have signed up to run in a local Turkey Trot, and I plan to meet my friend Anneke at a bagel shop for breakfast, as I do most every year.
I’m looking forward to making a fire in the fireplace, sleeping in late and having a break from the stress and anxiety of everyday life. I hope to play with my niece and watch a movie or two.
What I don’t plan to do is go anywhere near a shopping mall or store.
I’ve never been a Black Friday shopper, and I don’t plan to become one. Nor do I plan to rail against people who shop on Black Friday, or the folks who venture out on Thanksgiving. Each year, groups and individuals elect to observe something called Buy Nothing Day, which involves boycotting stores and encouraging others to do likewise, on Black Friday.
While I don’t object to the underlying philosophy of Buy Nothing Day, participating in an organized effort to educate the masses about the hazards of overconsumption sounds wearying to me. And I don’t want to feel weary during my long holiday weekend. Peace and quiet is what I’m after, and I’m not going to find it at the mall. Or an anti-shopping protest.
Polling data suggest millions share my point of view. According to the Pew Research Center, 50 percent of Americans say they dread holiday shopping, and 61 percent report they have no plans to shop over Thanksgiving weekend. Only 2 percent of Americans plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day itself, while about 76 percent of Americans believe stores should be closed then.
It seems I’m not the only person who plans to opt out of the annual holiday shopping frenzy. For many, the holidays can feel a bit like a treadmill. But you don’t have to get on. And you can get off at any time.