Well, it’s that time of year again … the time of year when families gather together around the table and give thanks for all their many blessings. Thanksgiving – here in the U.S. – has evolved into a day of feasting and football, a day to playfully argue over the proper pronunciation of pecan, and a day that usually ends with a refrigerator stuffed with leftovers and a stuffed grandpa snoozing in the La-Z-Boy.
But this year is different.
With the pandemic still raging – and getting even worse in a majority of states – a lot of families will NOT be gathering this year. My own son and daughter-in-law, who live out in Colorado, both recently tested positive for CoVid and are quarantining at home. And while my daughter lives close by here in Florida, her boyfriend is a manager at a grocery store and is consequently around hundreds of people on a daily basis – a fact that warrants pause and caution when contemplating gathering. And then there’s my husband’s mother and my own parents – who are in their eighties and who all have health issues.
For us, the risk is just too great.
So here we are – in a time meant to foster gratitude and happiness, and we find ourselves cultivating anxiety and depression instead.
And then I remembered: THERE ARE LITTLE JOYS EVERYWHERE. You’ve just got to look for them. Acknowledge them. Say a simple prayer of thanks for them.
The golden beauty and eternal hopefulness of the rising sun. The rhythmic, soothing sounds of crashing waves on a sandy beach. The nostalgia evoking scent of chimney smoke from the first fire of the season. The gently falling rain glistening against pumpkin colored leaves. Coming through the front door after taking your four-legged family member for a walk to be welcomed by the delicious smells of a turkey roasting in the oven and an apple pie cooling on the counter.
Yes, Thanksgiving will be different this year but there is still a bounty of blessings to be grateful for.
And I’m giving thanks for them all.
I sat in the front row. Black jacket. Black skirt. An older man I’d never met before began to tell stories of his deceased best friend and I found myself laughing, crying … wishing I had known the deceased better.
The deceased was my older brother.
My older brother and I weren’t close in the traditional sense. We didn’t call each other every week or go on vacations together once a year or even get together every Christmas.
But he would call or text me sometimes whenever something funny happened, and sometimes whenever he would come through town ( he was a truck driver ) he would call me from the truck stop and we’d get together for a quick bite to eat.
I always knew that he’d be there for me if I should ever need him and I’m pretty sure he knew he could count on me too.
He was the funniest person I ever knew. We often even made jokes about our sibling-hood.
One of the last times we got together before he died, he had just happened to be driving through town during his birthday weekend and he called from the truck stop, wanting to get together for some BBQ. So I went and picked him up and drove him to my favorite BBQ joint. And while we sat there, chowing down on ribs and baked beans, I joked with him about not being at home to sign for that birthday present that I did NOT send him. He said he wouldn’t worry about it too much because the mailman would probably just leave it on the porch – just like the UPS guy did with the birthday present that he sent me. ( He didn’t send me anything. )
He died five years ago this month. I miss him. And I also miss the future that I took for granted.
The future where we would have continued not sending birthday wishes and joking about how we didn’t – but also knowing that birthday wishes were not the cornerstone of our easy-going, goofy relationship.
And in my book … easy-going and goofy beats boxes and bows … every single time.
My father was a minister back when I was growing up. And every week, our town’s ministers and pastors and bishops would get together for a coffee-drinking, round-table meeting at one of our local restaurants.
As a child, I had the pleasure of attending a time or two, having talked my father into letting me skip the rest of the school day after a doctor or dentist appointment. And as I would sit there drinking my hot cocoa and spooning the gooey marshmallows to eat, my little brain would soak up every word being shared.
I remember a story my father once told about having played golf a few days prior. The course had been busy and they were pairing up single players to tee off together. And it just so happened that my father ended up being paired with a particularly foul-mouthed golfer.
By hole three, the conversation had steered towards what the other did for a living. And when my father informed the stranger that he was a minister, the foul-mouthed golfer began to apologize profusely, promising to watch what he said and to clean up his act while golfing around my father.
My father’s reply: “If you can clean it up on the golf course, you can clean it up elsewhere too.”
At a time when our country is so incredibly divided, when name-calling and still unproven accusations have become the “norm,” when political parties express such distrust in one another, when the traditions of democracy teeter on the edge … maybe our government officials should go golfing with my retired-minister father instead.
He could probably teach them a thing or two. He could tell them to watch what they say … that words matter … that manners matter … that CHARACTER MATTERS.
Clean it up, America. A country divided against itself cannot stand.
One would think we would have learned that already by hole three.
For the first time in over fifty Halloweens, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” will not be shown on network television. I feel like my childhood has officially ended.
Okay – to be fair – my childhood ended a long, LONG time ago but the Charlie Brown holiday specials have always been a staple in my life. Particularly the Halloween special. Ever since I dressed up as a witch at age five and scared myself so badly just looking at my unrecognizable reflection in the mirror (refusing to ever go trick-or-treating again) I have known that scary stuff just wasn’t for me. Not haunted houses, not scary costumes and not scary movies.
So you see … Charlie Brown is my jam.
It was even my children’s jam.
Okay, maybe not so much my children’s jam as they were never big fans of Charlie Brown like I was. But nothing says family tradition like forcing your children to sit through thirty minutes of the great pumpkin while their fingers addictively twitch from not being able to play video games or check texts on their phones, and while they simultaneously spit out descriptive adjectives like lame and boring and stupid.
“How can you watch this? The graphics are horrible,” they’d bemoan in stereo.
Ahhh … family traditions. Those were the good ole days.
I just read this week that Apple TV+ has acquired the rights to not only the Halloween special but the Thanksgiving and Christmas ones too. And while my family could indeed stream the specials on our iPhones and iPads during our growing disparate and scattered iLives, we won’t. It’s just not the same.
It’s just not the same as the nation sitting down together in front of their TVs, cross-legged with a bowlful of popcorn, and collectively experiencing that football being snatched away once again and being treated with a bag full of rocks.
Some traditions just shouldn’t be messed with.
Say it ain’t so, Charlie Brown. Say it ain’t so.