This Thanksgiving I forgot to be thankful. I spent a lot of time cooking, prepping the table, planning logistics of when to put the rolls in the oven, take them out, and warm rest of the food before the rolls cooled. Hosting family and friends on Thanksgiving day, more than a typical get-together, is a hit-the-ground-running affair. But since I didn’t schedule actually pondering my own, and our communal, thankfulness, it didn’t happen. I forgot, and it made me sad.
Two years ago when we hosted Thanksgiving, I made an effort to recognize what exactly we were celebrating. Of pointing everyone’s attention toward gratitude and of listening to each person’s thankful heart. It was memorable. It was bonding. It was what Thanksgiving should be. This year I failed as the ring-leader of gratitude. I made some rockin’ brussels sprouts (yes, that’s possible) but I didn’t host the bigger idea of the occasion, which I think is even more important.
I’m certainly not saying I was actually in charge of others’ thankfulness or lack thereof. And I’m not saying anyone else at the table failed to spend time reflecting personally on their many blessings. But in my experience Thanksgiving tends to be more about food than about a celebration of bounty itself, and I’d like to change that when we’re celebrating in our home. I want to make it about stopping for a moment and truly considering the depth of goodness that surrounds us. As a group. I want my kids to absorb the overflow of thankful hearts and let it color their view of the world, to combat some of the yuck they face in the same world each day. And it was likely more important to do so this year than any in recent memory. Bummer.
I dropped my kids off with my in-laws the weekend before Thanksgiving, and on my drive home through the darkening Flint Hills I listened to a podcast. Krista Tippett from On Being interviewed Irish poet Michael Longley and focused on his penchant for writing beautifully about normal, regular things. His “quiet insistence on celebrating normalcy.” In one significant part of the interview he pointed to the Holocaust as an example of this type of gratitude. “In that kind of nightmare what kept people sane was thinking of the ordinary things back home. And what made things slightly less nightmarish would be securing a toothbrush…”
In contrast to all I have to be thankful for, no matter what is happening in the greater world, this stark reminder of what thankfulness can be whiddled down to was poignant. It seemed an appropriate train of thought before the holiday arrived. I thought about it then, even including the pleasure of listening to Michael Longley reading his own poetry among the list of small but significant delights in a time of disheartenment. But I forgot to think about it on actual Thanksgiving. Not that there’s some sort of magic in being thankful on a particular, set-aside day. And yes, thanksgiving should be an ongoing attitude of the heart. I just wish I would have brought this up on that day, to have createa more memorable occasion. A ceremony of thankfulness, almost.
We still had a lovely time. We somehow avoided discussion of the current political climate (and the younger set of us gained some welcome perspective about an even more contentious period of our nation’s history – the 1960s). It wasn’t void of warmth and kindness and community. I simply wish I would have marked the occasion more clearly. But wallowing gets me nowhere. I’m going to forgive my slip-up and keep this in mind for our next round of hosting. Often our mistakes are what teach us best, and this has shown me that I want to make that which we celebrate on the holiday more central than the way we celebrate it. I still want to eat yummy molasses and oat dinner rolls, but they shouldn’t be the biggest take-away (though the caloric take away from those rolls is pretty great). Forgiven, but not forgotten. Next time. And for this year, better late than never, a list of simple things I don’t want to take for granted…
my comfy bed
a warm scone
heat and air conditioning
a car that works
a washer and dryer in my house
the sound of Luke playing the piano
the view from my bedroom window
podcasts and long drives through the Flint Hills
Feel free to list of a few small-but-significant things you appreciate.
Happy Thanksgiving do-over.