It’s Monday of Thanksgiving week and I am sitting in the tidy cottage that is my older sister’s house on Cape Cod. We are planning to prepare a grand repast for the whole family on Thanksgiving, somehow managing to get everyone collected from parts far and sundry so that we can feast together where the first feast started.
It’s been a dream of hers, since her husband died five years ago, to have us gather here where they bought their house and shared far too few yet such rich times. Jackie and I have been off gathering supplies all day: fresh vegetables, the blessed bird, local eggs and herbs, squashes and cranberries. (Unbeknownst to us on Monday evening, on Tuesday morning around six, a neighbor will drop off a massive Eastham turnip--Eastham being the turnip capital of the world, in case you didn’t know.)
But now it’s Monday night and I’m making us dinner—pesto prepared the way my dear and deceased friend Margaret used to—and Jackie is on the phone. She is making up the quorum, long-distance, at her church’s monthly Council meeting.
We joke a lot that she has become the church geek that I am (except she doesn’t get paid to be one, as I do, so she is the much better person!) On the other hand, why wouldn’t she be a loving church geek? She attends a progressive and inclusive church that does great good in the community and seeks to educate people on what God’s love is really all about instead of how it advances political causes.
And so on Monday night of Thanksgiving week, I’m chopping garlic and basil and listening to her cast her affirmative vote to fund the social programs her church Council has vetted. And I’m thinking: I’m thankful. I’m thankful for her. I’m thankful for this moment.
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Now it’s Tuesday of Thanksgiving week and between trying to squeeze in just the tiniest bit of vacation fun--walking the dogs at the pond, glimpsing whitecaps on the bay, seals on the ocean--we have been negotiating a car service so that our oldest sister, who is disabled, can be brought out here as well. I find a guy who is either a) a total snowman or b) genuinely committed to helping bring our family together for the holiday—as he says—because that also helps his family out.
Call me gullible: I’m going with option B. Because, why not? So I’m thankful, in advance, for Sandy, the driver tasked with getting my sister safely to her destination. Which is with us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been a little cranky about Thanksgiving. I always thought Thanksgiving was an institutionalized way to get a pass on our continual obligation to be grateful. You know--say a yearly grace at dinner, tuck into the day’s excess of turkey and trimmings, then forget about gratitude and compassion as we blunder into the faux-liturgy of the holiday shopping season
But it turns out, life is a good teacher. Or, more precisely, life is a good teacher if we pay attention. And for reasons for which I am truly grateful, the older I grow the more I pay attention. And the more I notice others doing so, too. Which is surely what this world needs—thinking people paying close attention.
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So--if you are reading this now, it is well past Thanksgiving. Maybe you spent the day with family. Or maybe you volunteered at some organization that provides Thanksgiving dinners to others. Or maybe you were the recipient of one, yourself. In any case, we are on the other side of the annual day of dedicated gratitude so what do we make of it now?
This seems true to me: we honor our connection to each other most when we first fully understand the pain of loss. On my family’s cacophonous homefront for this singular Cape Cod Thanksgiving, we gathered in gratitude not only for what we have, but for also for what we have lost—and in the sure and certain hope of connection and restoration.