Does giving thanks resemble quieting one's kids with harsh threats about taking away the Macy's parade or all future television? Matt works nights now, and we're living a staggered family existence. As I head to bed, he is heading to work, and soon after he rolls into bed, I roll out of it to attempt to keep our two boisterous children and barky dog silent so he can sleep. It's not easy on any of us. Today it was a sufficiently difficult task that I insisted both kids walk the dog with me. They ran circles around the muddy baseball field at the park below our house, but not long or hard enough to tire any of them into silent submission. More threats, more turning off of the TV, more separation of children. You get the picture! But Matt is now up, the kids are set free from the chains of hushing, and all of Thanksgiving day stretches out before us, dinner with friends not scheduled until 5pm tonight.
Thanksgiving has become a sort of secondary holiday for us, despite that many families are more likely to travel now than in December for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. (Come to think of it, we don't travel much for Christmas either!) Years ago, the first or second Thanksgiving of our married life I believe, Matt and I returned to New York to his parents' rural country home. It's restful to be there, and after indulging in hikes on their property, long afternoons of reading by a sun-filled window (This was pre-kids; we were still able to read!), and over-consumption of every sort, we delayed our departure to the last possible moment. We headed for home on Sunday afternoon, expecting a few traffic bumps but nothing of significance. To our great surprise and dismay, our trip took twice as long as usual, and we were crawling out of our skin by the time we returned to Massachusetts. We called to declare we would never return for Thanksgiving and put ourselves through that again, and I believe we've only gone back on this "heat of the moment" promise once.....for Matt's parents' 50th anniversary celebration, and on that trip, we left on Saturday and drove through the night rather than make the same mistake twice. Typically we've declared ourselves the Thanksgiving hosts, nestling into our Massachusetts and Connecticut homes for a day of rich smells and tastes, and too many dishes to speak of. (Early menus were color-coded and included tasks for the week ahead of the holiday--I was a bit of a control freak, no?) I don't know the last time I spent Thanksgiving with my father, though I suspect it was at least a decade ago, and the day often feels like more of a much-deserved day off from work than a family holiday.
Whether the traditional crowd around the table, or something more informal like our own celebration, it is always a gift to give and to say thanks. While we're quite good at the giving thanks aspect, I'd like for us to increase the giving part of the day. This is something we'll be more able to do in a couple of years when the kids are more independent and participative. So in the meantime, we give money and food, and the gift of our prayers for all those alone, longing, and in need. There is so, so much need, and I'm reminded even as I type that many in the world live in settings of war, violence and threat--threats far more serious than my suggestion that my kids will have to miss the rest of the parade.
Peace, Lord, we long for peace. May it begin here in this home, at this moment, with gratitude, thanks, and giving.