It is an annual ritual. I dust off the Friendly Village china that belonged to my mother-in-law, the autumn colors adding a festive touch to the table. I polish my mother’s flatware, the sterling that she proudly collected over the years. And I put salt and pepper into the turkey shakers I bought for a song at a yard sale over two decades ago. I take inventory of the tablecloths, choosing the one that survived, unstained from last year’s meal. These are more than just things: they are a legacy, a tangible scrapbook, and a reminder of holidays past when generations have gathered to enjoy the communal feast, telling tale tales around the table, cracking jokes and embellishing the family memories we all share. I lovingly prepare the prized secret recipes, my culinary inheritance, and when my grown children later remark that they taste just like Mawmaw’s, I smile with pride at my success. This is Thanksgiving, the one day of the year when we all don our pilgrim hats and spend a moment reflecting on our individual and collective blessings.
Like most American households, we go around the table proudly proclaiming those things for which we are thankful. Sometimes, there are silly wisecracks, mostly out of embarrassment. The kids begrudgingly participate, joking about being grateful for the turkey and dressing and pecan pie. But once we are able to strip away the superficial layer, there are profound moments, words of kindness and appreciation for the things and people we so often take for granted. We do our best to recreate that perfect Norman Rockwell holiday, and even when we fall short, and the gravy is lumpy, it is pretty darned special. Yes, it is a cliché, but one that we embrace as a nation and as a family. And I am glad that it is one tradition that hasn’t been tainted by cynicism in our modern world.
As everyone starts to grumble about the food getting cold, we have one last ritual, my husband’s annual toast. “Here’s to all who are here, those who have gone before us, and those who are yet to be. May we be ever thankful.” My daughters-in-law eye each other and wink, wondering whose turn it might be for that wish to come true. It has happened. We often joke about the baby born nine and a half months after turkey day.
It is interesting as we sit among the bounty, reflecting on the many blessings we enjoy that this one day means so much. We are on our best behavior, with kindness and cooperation front and center. It is as though we have saved up all of the good feelings, the joy in being together, for this shared time. But wouldn’t it be lovely if we could truly live each day in gratitude, demonstrating our appreciation for all that we have been given? To have been born in America, to have life choices and limitless opportunities, to have health and happiness, friends and family, is like winning the lottery. The value of these treasures is beyond measure.
As we move forward into the coming holiday season and the New Year which follows, let us be ever mindful of how fortunate we are and may we enjoy every moment of the most precious gift of all, a well-lived life. And by all means, have that extra slice of pie! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.