November 27, 2010

The Thanksgiving that DIDN'T happen

or "Why I might quit Facebook."

When I was back home in Kansas City, I never missed Thanksgiving. It had become my most favorite day of the year, even better than Christmas. I'm not even sure why except maybe because it is all about family. Food too, but family first and foremost. Every year I would spend part of the day with my mother's side of the family and then the other part with my dad's side. I guess I loved it because it was really the only time I saw many of my family. I liked catching up, almost like being normal. With all my years of travel, I missed a lot of holidays and even a few weddings like my brother's, but I never missed Thanksgiving. Until I came to Mongolia.

Now I've missed three. But hey, with the power of the internet, that shouldn't be a problem, should it. The first year we did manage to Skype during Thanksgiving dinner but with some technical difficulties. Last year went fine on Skype. But this year, even though I traded a few emails with my family about it, and talked about it on my Facebook page, I ended up waiting for hours on Skype for my family to come online. They never did.

My older brother Mike was having a huge Thanksgiving dinner with some 50 people invited. I timed it so I'd be up at the crack of dawn which corresponded to when they would be having dinner. Here's what my cousin Linda wrote:
We had about fifty for Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin's house yesterday and it couldn't have been more fun! Thanks MJ for a great dinner, a great time, and much love flowing all around us. Oh yes, I am so thankful for my close knit family!
Yet, somehow, I was excluded this year. Not sure why. Maybe it was just too much. But both the days leading up to and the days after Thanksgiving, I received no messages, no emails, nothing. It's as if I was truly, completely forgotten. Even my cousin posted a note saying it was sad not to talk to "her cousin in Mongolia." Mind you, she posted this on her wall, as if I weren't living anymore, instead of sending it to me.

I know I'm different. As the saying goes, "Fly your freak flag high!" I've always been the 'odd' one, the strange one. People used to ask my brothers where I was traveling and the answer usually was "some foreign country." And even though we came from the same mother and grew up in the same house, I couldn't be more different from my brothers and their lives.

But Thanksgiving was the one time, the only time where my universe and theirs lined up where I could share in their world and they in mine. Especially now that I'm so far away, it's the only day I really look forward to every year. But other than one brother's apology "we all got caught up with everyone else" I've not heard from anyone from that party of fifty saying, "Sorry we missed you, hope you had a good Thanksgiving."

One thought is that Facebook is to blame. It gives everyone a false sense of connection because rarely is their one-to-one communication. It's more like watching each others real-life soap opera, but only the edited version. Not real life at all. But maybe everyone feels that that's all the connection I need to my family, that I don't need any true one-to-one communication. I almost deactivated my Facebook account, and I still might.

Who knows why this was the Thanksgiving that DIDN'T happen because I sure don't. And no one else is talking.

PS. To the fifty or so people at my brother Mike's Thanksgiving party, I'm happy you had a good time. I can just imagine it. Mike throws a great shin-dig. And I wish you all a wonderful holiday season ahead. But don't worry about me. I'm a pretty resilient guy mostly. And if you ever think of it, drop me an email. Or a real letter. I'd love to hear from you.