Be A Good Wing Man
Well folks, we’ve made it to yet another Thanksgiving. The gateway drug of the holiday season. The beginning of the end. We drudged through winter, swam through spring and sweat through summer just to get here. Ghosts and ghouls have flown through town and scared away the lingering pockets of August heat, carelessly taking the beautiful golden and rusted leaves with them. The only things left to harvest are the coats from our closets and the decorations from our attics. With the birds migrating south and the Sun taking off work earlier each day, nature is gently pushing us inward, compelling us to gather indoors and huddle close to each other until the coming winter is over.
The once spacious days of summer have now been buttoned up and pulled tight by their drawstrings. We are trapped and burdened by our mutual need for warmth. The easy come, easy go mood of “shorts weather” skipped town the second it heard “Close the goddam door behind you, it’s cold outside!” get bellowed from a voice buried under a blanket. We’ve swam upstream to get here and now we’re home. Back amongst those who know us most. Those would claim us–who do claim us–and who applaud our virtues and tolerate our stank. We’re their assholes and they’re ours.
When we return home, we inevitably pack some baggage and emotional angst in with the socks and sweaters. Sometimes it fits neatly into TSA approved 3 fluid ounce bottles that can be zipped up and contained in a plastic baggie (looking at you covert joints on the roof). Other times it bursts from our mouths like the first exhales of steam from a boiling tea kettle, creating moments that demand our attention and assistance in releasing the pressures of life. All we can do is return home as the person we are today, knowing that our kind is welcome somewhere and hoping that the person we return home as is a little better than the person who last left. And if we’re not, we can safely guarantee someone is going to let us know. Our hugs have claws and our kisses have teeth, but they are ever-present and unconditional.
How you deal with unpacking everyone’s baggage is what makes you and your family unique. It is your specific brand of tolerance and justice–the inner barometer that guides your intuition and likely influences most every decision that you make in life. Whether conscious or not, this code of conduct is the foundation of your personality and sets the tone for how you show love and allow others to show love to you. It’s not our practice in my family to go around the table at Thanksgiving and tell each other what we are thankful for. It is, however, our practice to treat each other with gratitude and appreciation every time we cross paths. While I would hope it is our hearts that bear evidence of this, you can look no further than our bellies to know that we try to live every day as if it were Thanksgiving. This year, and every year, I am thankful for the love and support of my family.
This holiday season I have one piece of advice to offer; it’s something I have learned over the decades from my family and is something I have found to be the sustaining force of any relationship I have forged in my life: be a good wing man. A simple thought with infinite applications. We are all a part of a team and however big or small it may be, it operates best when we are committed to being open and encouraging. This concept is not to be eschewed as naive–sometimes we must be open to encouraging a loved one to “kindly-go-fuck-themselves” and that gesture, too, is often the bravest form of love. A good wing man, of course, offers criticism in words that the recipient can hear and process, words that are tough enough to be remembered, but soft enough to not leave a mark. We are each other’s best keepers and coaches and let us approach that role with objective guidance and unrelenting tenderness. The point is driven home in the simple, yet powerful, words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”
Go home, hug your family, thank them and tell them that you love them–even if you don’t fully mean it yet. And then go make this delicious green bean casserole. It’s the best wing man any Thanksgiving turkey can ask for.