This morning I did as I have done for years, and headed over to the Manchester Road Race with my brother and 15000 of our closest friends. This was the 75th anniversary of the race, so there was even more historical emphasis than usual. There was also a slew of crazy costumes: teletubbies, place settings, and a Jamaican bobsled team were among the highlights. And of course, there was the ubiquitous Hartford Whalers logo.
Wait a moment, you must be asking yourself, haven’t the Whalers been gone for 15 years? Questions of this kind are often met with an angry glance and cries of “too soon!” See, people who grew up near Hartford still love the Whalers, no matter how long they’ve been gone. Some people even think they might be back, although most of us country rubes lost our innocence when Bob Kraft dangled the Patriots in front of us in the late nineties. Never trust a pro sports franchise.
I grew up in the land of steady habits, where long memories keep the fires of nostalgia burning bright. For most of my life I have been trying to avoid change, to keep things constant. I have sought and found stability and routine, yet have always felt guilty about it. I try to convince myself over and over that change is good, that shifts in life mean growth. When I grow tired of trying to make myself like change, I am reminded that life changes anyway, so you just have to deal with it.
But on Thanksgiving, I give myself a break. I indulge the nostalgia and the sameness that have always given me so much comfort. We remember an event (accurate or not) from 390 years ago. Families eat the same foods, have the same arguments, watch the same teams as they have year after year. I can’t be the only one who needs something to hang on to, some tradition that stays the same, even as the faces around the table and the tables themselves are altered.
Today I won’t eat turkey or pie, and I’ll probably pass on the cranberry sauce. My indulgence today is my long memory, the comfort of the old, and the steady habits that run in my New Englander’s blood.