As you all know, I talk a lot about gratitude, and how important I think it is. And I love knowing that there is a holiday dedicated to that idea. I know, it’s about family and food, and sharing a good meal with friends, and we all fret and stress about who’s doing the cooking, do we have enough, is the turkey too dry and who will carve it, and we groan over the one guest someone invited that no one likes (but maybe really needed a place to go). Squabbles break out, children show up in ridiculous outfits, or arrive late (so the turkey gets even dryer), or relatives have too much to drink and misbehave…..any family gathering is bound to be fraught with the kind of stresses which distract us from the bigger picture or the smaller one. But usually at some point in the Thanksgiving weekend, amidst all the fuss and hubbub, I somehow get a quiet moment, usually late at night, and suddenly remember what it’s about…..being thankful, being grateful for all those big and small blessings that we often take for granted, the fact that we have a family to be with, that we are together (no matter how stressful, or how weird our relatives are, most people’s are), or that we are with friends if we don’t have family to be with. No matter what the day looks like, there is something to be thankful for, from earlier in the year if not on that day.
Long ago, I had some very lonely Thanksgivings, at a very small table, and even now, nothing in life is perfect—no matter how many laughing, smiling people we are at our dinner table, there will always be an ache in my heart over the one person who isn’t there: my son Nick, who died at 19 (he would always come downstairs wearing something totally outrageous on Thanksgiving, and have to be sent back to his room to change (usually several times!!!), and oh how I miss that now!!! Not to mention the year he showed up in clown pants with a red tie with GIANT white polka dots, and of course I sent him back to put a suit on (he was 14 or 15 and full of fun and mischief, with a wicked sense of humor!!….and the final version was always handsome and respectable, whew!!! But until we got there, I did some serious complaining!!!)……my three married older kids usually go to their in-laws on Thanksgiving, so we are all together for Christmas, but not on Thanksgiving…..so there is always something missing in all our lives on these special days, no matter how perfect and joyful they seem from the outside….in my more solitary days, before I married and had many children, I came across a quote in the Bible once that stayed with me and said “God places the solitary in families”, and he certainly did that for me, and a very big family at that. But there are other kinds of families that feed our souls too, families made up of friends, and good people we enjoy. And some years, there is no one to be with, and maybe then, we can be of use to others who need our help even more. But whoever we spend Thanksgiving with, or how we spend it, if we can find one tiny thing to be grateful for, it makes the day worthwhile…..I hope that your Thanksgiving is filled with blessings, people you love, a great turkey and good times….but even if you spend it quietly, or even alone, I hope that gratitude touches and warms your heart. One of my favorite Thanksgivings was the year that someone put our turkey back in the freezer the night before (don’t ask me why), and when I woke up on Thanksgiving morning, at dawn, to cook the turkey, it was of course frozen rock solid, and I spent the morning dashing to small, local markets that were open, to buy a bunch of chickens, which I cooked for our Thanksgiving dinner. I started out really annoyed about it, and by the end of the morning, I was laughing at the absurdity of it….and the chickens didn’t take nearly as long to cook, and weren’t as dry!!! Everyone loved it!!!. However you spend the day, I hope it warms your heart, and that there are smiles and grateful moments in it for you. I hope that your Thanksgiving is filled with blessings in abundance, even if not obvious ones, and I hope that no matter what, you find one thing to be thankful for. If so, it will light up your day. Happy Thanksgiving!!!