Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday as a child. It was always shared with my father’s brother’s family and sometimes assorted other uncles and aunts, friends of the family, and cousins, lots of cousins. As a child there was little expected of me. I could eat to stupefaction with no one caring. I remember eating almost a whole box of mint melt-aways before dinner was even served. After dinner, which was always served at 2, my cousin and I would direct our younger cousins, siblings and friends in a stunning version of the first Thanksgiving. At some point, the adults would be hushed and forced to witness our performance. Tolerantly, they would smile and clap. We’d bow modestly, convinced we were budding thespians. Later, we would lounge on our parents’ laps and listen to the rhythm of adult conversation.
Of course, it all changed, inevitably, as we grew up. Now there are contingencies. My cousin and I have children who live far away and have in-law’s holiday expectations to juggle. My uncle and aunt are gone. My mother won’t attend any gatherings other than my home, and, as the matriarch of the family, this puts a crimp in Thanksgiving plans. So this Thanksgiving we will be a small group- my 91 year old mother, my widowed brother-in-law and my husband. Our children and step children, grandchildren and step grandchildren and other siblings have other plans and other traditions. So nostalgia and regrets lurk but are not allowed to take center stage.
I’m trying to focus on the meaning of giving thanks, rather than on the holiday specifics. My favorite quote captures the idea of gratitude as a choice:
“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend…when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present- love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure- the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth.” -Sarah Ban Breathnach
I choose to focus on my considerable blessings this Thanksgiving, 2010.