I suppose it’s a little weird that as a vegetarian, I enjoy going hunting with my husband. More than likely it’s because it’s a connection to my childhood, and reminds me of my grandpa, dad and uncle. I don’t eat meat and haven’t for almost 13 years now. However, the thrill of heading out into the grassland to follow behind the dogs is exciting (as long as it’s over 50 degrees because I’m a fair-weather hunter after all).
Thanksgiving reminds me of hunting season in Illinois. Early mornings where I could hear my mother rolling out homemade noodles in our kitchen, and my dad zipping up his faded Carhartt overalls as he and Bob, our beagle, headed out to hunt for pheasant and rabbit in the just harvested fields outside our small country home.
Saturday, I finally had time to go out with Joe and the dogs, and we hunted for an hour but to my out of shape legs it felt like four. I definitely broke in the new hunting boots Joe gifted me for my birthday, and quickly remembered why I didn’t enjoy walking beans because the soybeans that were planted in the public hunting area (and then left there for the wildlife) are super hard to hike through. Walking through those beans was reminiscent of dragging all four of my children behind me, as they clung to my legs, begging me not to leave them with the babysitter (as they would when they were little ones).
Joe and the dogs are like well-oiled machines out there – moving at the speed of light. Meanwhile, I’m like that old Xerox your grandparents have in the basement that takes 15 minutes to warm up and only copies in faded gray. It wheezes and moans and finally shoots out your barely there copy. That’s me, trekking along behind him, making various sounds, attempting to keep up the pace.
While walking through that tall grass yesterday, all I could think of was how much I miss home. This time of year is hard for me, and I can imagine it’s hard for a great many others who cannot travel home to see their families for Thanksgiving. I haven’t been home since July 2020. That seems like a very long time ago, so much has happened in our world since then.
As time moves on, and I stay busy over here on this side of the Mississippi River, my family does the same on their side. My nieces and nephews grow up without knowing me, my parents fall farther into older age, and Champaign appears to get more and more violent (have to admit that I don’t miss that at all).
This is also my first Thanksgiving without Wyatt at home, and his first Thanksgiving all by himself. He doesn’t seem too bothered by it though because his roommates are shipping out soon, and he will no longer have to be cleaning up their messes. As someone who cleaned up after him his entire life, I love the irony of him playing the part of room mother. Yet, I hate the idea of him being all by himself.
As I watched June rush through the tall grasses and search for pheasant, all of these thoughts rushed through my head. Her svelte body cutting to and fro, Joe ahead of me having no problem marching through the thick brush, and me struggling along. I realized that I have been carrying a lot of heavy weight. And I think a great many of us have as well.
The weight of missing our loved ones. The weight of yearning for those we cannot see. The weight of worry. All of it just rests so heavily on our shoulders, and often keeps us from enjoying the simple things that are right in front of us. In my case, it was a rare warm day in November, with sunshine, dogs and my husband. I was having a hard time enjoying it because I was thinking of all of that weight.
Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for people to list what they are thankful for, when they’re asked. I bet we can list things we worry about, miss, and stress out about tenfold. So, what do we do? Is turkey a cure? I don’t know. I wish I did know. Maybe the answer is pie? I do know that I’m thankful for pie.