I’m planning Thanksgiving this week which got me thinking about previous Thanksgivings. They fall into pretty much two categories. Category One: Long plane rides home for a too short weekend with my family, consisting of doing lots of dishes while hoping that no one in my extended family is fighting. One memorable Thanksgiving red eye plane ride in law school found me sitting next to a very smelly little man who tended to cuddle after he fell asleep. Category Two: being a stray taken in by charitable people whose sense of duty probably outstripped their affection for me. Another memorable Thanksgiving found me in an apartment in Boston with a hostess with strep throat, who felt well enough only to bake a turkey. There was another Mormon girl there with me, who was so overwhelmed to be surrounded by Harvard Law Students that she had a “drunk Mormon episode” fueled by adrenaline rather than wine. She karaoked the entire Rent soundtrack at the top of her lungs while the authentically drunk law students sat around staring at her with mouths gaping open. On the way home some guy with a southie accent called me and my friend lesbians. A day forever emblazened on my memory.
This year will be different. This year, I’m cooking dinner with my urban Singleton family. (huzzah for Bridget Jones!) As I found out last year, Singleton dinners are wonderful. No family fights, no green bean casserole, and no football. And once I figured out I could cook a turkey without burning down the house, my enjoyment only increased. This year, riding on last years’ success, we’re doing it again. And possibly taking in some strays–only we will not play the Rent soundtrack.
So, here’s the thing I’ve realized while planning Thanksgiving for my urban Singleton family. They really are family. We take care of each other. Together we’ve gone through major surgery, job loss, illness, grief over (traditional) family tragedies, hookups, and breakups. Armed by our cell phones, we all know that help is one chain of kindly gossip away. Our families know it too. My friend’s sister called one of us the day of that friend’s emergency surgery. A quick phone conference to decide who could take work off, and we had someone at the hospital in 30 minutes. My roommates’ moms call, and talk to me about my job woes before they talk to their own daughters. My parents praise my friends more than they praise me. (Or at least my insecure self thinks they do.) We have some important things in common. We’re all committed to living gospel-oriented lives, and we check up on each other. There is safety in confessing both doubts and triumphs to an unconditionally caring ear.
I think I’ve always subconsciously bought into the idea that my gratitude was for the opportunity to simulate an authentic Mormon life in an unconventional environment while I waited for my chance to have a family of my own. But as I’ve been planning Thanksgiving for my favorite Singletons, I realized we’re all living authentic Mormon lives. We are taking the admonitions of prophets and scriptures and structuring our lives to fit them. We are committed “gospel livers” and not “gospel waiters.” We live in a world so centered around family that we forget that the perfect family doesn’t exist. All committed members living gospel lives inside or outside a traditional family are authentic Mormons, because we are all taking gospel principles and trying to apply it to whatever craziness life is throwing at us. And let’s face it. Life tends to throw the crazy right about this time of year. May all your holidays be filled with minimal craziness assuaged by your authentic Mormon convictions. And may you avoid both smelly traveling companions and the Rent soundtrack.