Originally published 11.30.13 - Republished 11.16
Yep, it's that time of year when Americans everywhere recall their history lessons which were deeply impressed on them at an early age about how the Pilgrims came to the USA (which of course wasn't the USA yet) and wore really strange Lincoln-esque paper hats to their dinner. Their shoes had such big buckles they couldn't lift their feet which is how mothers kept the kids from running off. They ate corn - a lot of it - and pumpkin everything and of course, turkey. I always wonder what they had as their green vegetable.
Gratitude lists are everywhere on the internet these days, we're prolific at making them. It appears there's a considerable market for anything having to do with making lists and if it about gratitude well, then we're really grateful. There's software, books, digital book, real paper and of course, more than one app for that. So with all this gratitude stuff floating around for inspiration, I though this, my second blog post should certainly jump on the gratitude bandwagon and state my gratefulness. The next step then is to carefully analyze and examine what I'm grateful for. And thats where it became problematic.
It's not that I'm not grateful, I'm incredibly blessed and equally thankful. It's more about where do you stop and start with this thing? I mean, no matter how you write it, someone with a "What About ME?" complex will check to see if their name is there and if not, it will become the "What About ME?" issue. Therefore mentioning specific names is ruled out, unless they are names attached to people that have gone before me. That's a quiet group that rarely argues. ;)
Near as I can see one can break gratefulness into three distinct eras - past, present and future. And with an astute presence of mind, mentally connect a fews links between the different eras to really drill down the super-grateful's, because those become the stand-outs in gratefulness.
So here's a few things that have stuck with me a long time….
I'm grateful I grew up in a time when Thanksgiving meant dragging off to Grandpa's house for a meal that always ran extremely late (apparently we were very European and I just didn't know it. Mostly we just ate late because my mom worked late.) I remember fighting with my brother for a stake of real estate on the couch to fall asleep on, and my uncle carrying me out to the car for the ride home. Years later, same house, same dishes, same uncle helped carry my little ones out to the car for the trip home. But even that was part of the day, it's just what Thanksgiving came with. I'm grateful my aunt always used my grandmothers Haviland dishes as it taught me to never ever play with your food OR your plate. I'm grateful they had the tradition of making a goose for Thanksgiving to use the drippings to baste the Christmas turkey, as to my young tastebuds it was quite a treat. To my seasoned tastebuds who for 17 years knows best the vegetarian palette, Ewww. Yuck. But at least those birds where deeply honored. And I'm grateful for my Grandpa to whom I was very close and would have turned 123 on this Thanksgiving were he still with us. He left memories and stories behind about his childhood that were innocent and endearing, a window to another time. I'm grateful stores weren't open on Thanksgiving - heck, back then they weren't even open on Sunday's. There wasn't any mention of shopping or rushing off, there was just an enjoyment of the present moment. The Milwaukee Journal had a mammoth Thanksgiving evening paper that was stuffed thick with advertisements of everything imaginable, and I'd rip through that paper to find the best pictures of whatever my interest was that year. I'm thankful for the sweet sugary shows on TV, nothing was too awfully scary, and the way Grandpa would be totally engrossed in whatever he was watching and when you'd ask him what it was he'd smile and say he wasn't sure but it looked pretty good. He was an easy-going Irish guy. And there was always a dog parked up against his chair, and his arm would be draped across the soft fur with an occasional reassuring pat-and-pet. We always had a dog or sometimes more than one, and they were all faithfully dedicated to Grandpa. (He fed them secretly under the table, so the dedication had a slight culinary appeal.)
I was kind of grateful in a scared-to-death-kind-of-way when my aunt "gave" the Thanksgiving holiday to me to be in charge of. It was exciting to think of how good the house would smell and how I'd make the table look all special with my contemporary dishes. It was scary to think of the shoes I had to fill and accomplishing this feat with children "helping" as only children can, but my husband likes to cook thank god, and we pulled it off without too much tragedy. Location changed, dishes and traditions changed, and then faces began to change too.
As time went by I saw old time-worn faces and stories replaced with new ones, old ones slipped into memories and new ones slipped into their places. I am grateful for both, my heart hurts and tears swell as I think of those who won't ever share Thanksgiving dinner with me again, and it's joyful as I think of the new faces that surround my table now. I watch contently the interactions between my grown children and spouses and grandchildren, and marvel to myself what an incredible group of people I have been so fortunate to be part of, past present and future. I wonder what memories my grandchildren will retain from these young days, as I remember mine. I wonder if they will remember feeling the excitement of coming to our house, of the fire in the fireplace to warm themselves, of the political debate that always somehow surfaces, of the food that tasted so good and for the most part was proudly prepared without animal products for the dedicated vegans in our family. I wonder what they will remember, and what they will hold special and dear, and what will stay with them forever and one day they'll try to tell their grandchildren about when all the faces have changed, who will listen politely but probably rather be off playing.
And that uncle that carried two sleeping generations out to the car? I lost him on April Fool's Day this year, appropriately so because he was always the "fun" uncle. And I know if he was with us last night as he was last year, if asked to carry a little one out to tuck safely in the car for the trip home, he would have without complaint. So tonight I dedicate this blog post to Harry, who carried me then and continues to carry me now, and to the "fun" uncles everywhere. I'm so grateful I had one of those. Love to All.