Every year, when I start my shopping list for Thanksgiving, the same image comes to mind. Maybe you know it. It’s that classic Norman Rockwell illustration of a family sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner.
Rockwell was brilliant at capturing the one “telling moment” to convey a common experience. In “Freedom from Want,” it’s the moment when the turkey (perfectly roasted to a golden brown) is presented by the hostess (perfectly poised in a spotless apron) at a table surrounded by smiling guests.
I love that image. Not because it looks like my Thanksgivings. Not even close. But it feels the same _ happy and thankful, the way Thanksgiving ought to feel.
It’s my favorite holiday, my favorite day of the year. But let me say this: I could do without the turkey. And the stuffing. And the green bean casserole.
I’d keep the pumpkin pie, of course. I mean, what would Thanksgiving be without it? But I would gladly skip all the rest, not to mention the shopping, cooking and cleaning up.
The problem with my pumpkin-pie-only plan is I would likely be dining alone. I don’t know how it works at your house, but at mine, people like to eat. Especially at Thanksgiving. We all have our favorite dishes. We all eat different stuff. We eat until we swear we can’t eat another bite. Then we wallow around until we’re ready to eat some more.
Honestly? I love it. I love watching everybody eat and talk and laugh, all at the same time, telling stories, cracking jokes, clinking glasses, scraping plates, a roomful of family and friends being together as one. I love seeing the light in their eyes and feeling the warmth of their arms hanging around my neck.
For me, that’s the payoff, the “telling moment” of the day, the reason for all the shopping and cooking and cleaning up. Being together makes it all worth it.
The best traditions are like the people who observe them. They change, as need be, with time. But I’ve tried my best to keep at least two Thanksgiving rituals.
First, I count my blessings. I do this, not on T-Day when I’m hip-deep in turkey gravy, but in a few quiet moments before I start my shopping list. Beginning with gratitude seems to make everything a bit easier and more worthwhile. Here are five of the many gifts I am thankful for this year:
1. Health and happiness _ my own and that of those I love. My mother used to say you can only be as happy and healthy as your least happy, least healthy child. I am grateful for both.
2. Family and friends. Mine keep growing in number, much to my delight. But the loss of my younger brother this year reminds me that we are not on this earth forever. We need to cherish the moments we share.
3. A roof over my head and a cheerful soul to share it with. To paraphrase a Psalm: Better to live in a hole in the desert than in a palace with a cranky mate.
4. Getting older. I spend less time on my hair and more time on simple pleasures: Sunsets with my husband, cream in my coffee, kissing my grandbabes, long talks with my kids. If I’d known aging was so much fun, I’d have quit fighting it long ago.
5. A job I love doing, most of the time, and readers who make me want to keep doing it, usually.
My second Thanksgiving ritual is another “telling moment” that holds for me the meaning of the day. I set two tables: One in the dining room for those who’ll be with us at dinner; the other in my heart for those who are with us in spirit only, living or long departed, but never forgotten.
I’ll save a place for you at that second table. I hope you’ll do the same for me. We can count our blessings together. Then you can help me clean up.
I’d like that a lot. Maybe next year we’ll just do pumpkin pie.
Here’s wishing you and yours, from me and mine, a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.