2017-11-24; Thanksgiving at the Goat Farm
2017-11-24; Thanksgiving at the Goat Farm
I’m one of those annoying people who will say, “Meh, Thanksgiving, I’m thankful every single day.” While that statement is true, it is often misunderstood. As a teenager and young adult, it seemed no one could understand why I didn’t “do” Thanksgiving. First of all, this isn’t about the whole genocide thing, if I wrote about that it would be a book, not a blog piece. I’m talking about modern day Thanksgiving; obligatory gratitude and glorious gluttony at its finest.
Thanksgiving in America is an extremely family oriented holiday, so if you have no family, it is awkward. Well meaning people want to invite you to their family holiday, but it’s always awkward. Now anyone who knows me will perk up and say, “But Hanna, aren’t you the one who is always saying that if you feel awkward it’s because you are choosing to?” To which I say, yes. Yes, it’s still a choice. In this instance, I like the awkward feeling, it reminds me where I am, standing on the outside looking in, and that is where I prefer to be. Observation is how I learn, that and doing.
Now for the more personal part, not really my thing but it seems to be the main thing folks keep telling me I need to start to include. In this case, it’s a fear of abandonment, classic case. I don’t want to go to someone else’s super awesome Thanksgiving and be treated like family and make ‘friends’ and be heard and smile and laugh and then be summarily dismissed just as quickly as I was “accepted” or rather, given the illusion of acceptance. All for the sake of a holiday, again, the word obligation comes to mind. That ultimately is what I ended up feeling like I was; an obligation.
That would be where the awkwardness came from. People, often who had no idea there would be strangers at their Thanksgiving, would feel obligated to be nice and accepting of me on a day where it’s traditionally a family day. When I was younger adults would make “Oh, my! That poor little orphan girl!” faces and when I was older I got, “Hmmm, must be a broken family. So sad” faces. Sometimes I even got grilled about whatever foster situation I was in. It was as though since I was an orphan and they were feeding me, I had to tell them. I always made up the greatest stories about horseback rides and picnics. Swimming at the lake and jumping off the dock into the cool water. So, I lied; another point of awkwardness.
Should I have told them the truth? I’m still not ready to get that personal, I think the point is made, thanksgiving was never a favorite. Don’t get me started on Christmas, all the elements of thanksgiving but with presents for everyone but me and all the sad faces even though I didn’t want any in the first place. Probably wouldn’t get to keep them anyway. At any rate, this was a new kind of thanksgiving for me. I was at a goat farm, basically a farm hand, and I wasn’t the only one.
There were about six of us WWOOFers altogether working the farm. Three of the farmhands had family close enough to go see them for the holiday, three of us stayed behind. From about 11am people started and continued to show up. The farmer, we’ll call him John, had his family coming, mom and dad, brother, sister, and some cousins and the like. He came from a big family, just like you’d expect with a farming family. Farmer John had made it abundantly clear from the beginning that we were all invited, in fact, required, to celebrate with him and his family. Of course I loathed the idea. You did what John said though, he was stern and a little gruff but well meaning. If you met him as a stranger and had to guess what kind of farm he had based on what he looked like and his presence, you would guess goats.
I thought I was in the clear when his real family started to show up, as the help, I would be dismissed now. I was somewhat accustomed to being treated like the help; I kind of liked the relative invisibility of it. I immediately set about trading shifts with the people who wanted to attend so I wouldn’t have to be around much. My daughter and I were about done with the evening feed when John said, “Come eat! Feed later!” so eat we did.
Three kinds of potatoes cooked four different ways, four different kinds of Roast Beast, ALL the vegetable things, yes the beans with crispy stuff, and pie. There was a lot of pie. I’m not going to pretend there wasn’t still a certain element of being treated like the help. The whole farm family treated us as such because that is precisely what we were. They also gave us the space to build a fire, instruments to play music and more food than we could eat as well as two kegs of hard cider for those who were drinkers, sodas and ginger ale for the rest.
We sat at the table with them, the servants sitting with their goat Farmer and his family, it was better treatment than I’d had in some foster situations. The difference this time, for me, was that we were the help, US. It wasn’t just me drawing pathetic looks from people and feeling awkward because people assumed they understood me but never bothered even talking to me. We were together drinking and laughing and playing music and it was lovely. There was always something to do as well whenever the whole socializing thing got to be too much for me.
It was when I was gathering eggs that more people started to show up. Past WWOOFers that had worked John’s farm and returned for holidays sometimes. There was a nice couple who had just returned from working a vineyard in Italy, a guy who had been helping restore farms in California that had been damaged by fire and a young girl with her two dogs who regaled us with tales of train-hopping and travel.
I hadn’t expected to actually be in the majority group, in point of fact, it was the first thanksgiving where I was. On this farm there was a big hand built adobe pizza oven near a huge, brick-lined fire pit. The couple that had shown up built a fire and the guy was talking about building that oven and digging ‘this here’ fire pit back when they had worked on the farm. They had been there in the summer, a far more popular time for farm work, less muck. There had been so many people that summer he had found himself with enough time to build the oven. Pizza nights had become a thing during that summer.
John had a wall covered in varied string instruments as well as a few drums in the community room and people who could play were softly playing by the fire. The whole thing was surreal to me, it was the first thanksgiving I had ever enjoyed. Usually I hang out with other misfits who don’t really celebrate thanksgiving so much as a lovely, greenery infused, “Danksgiving.” You’ll either understand what that holiday would entail, or you won’t, either way, it isn’t as though I sit alone in my room on Thanksgiving sobbing. As a builder of communities and a Tribe-Hopper, in so many worlds but not truly a part of any of them, I love it when people come together and that was a day I’ll not forget.