The Postscript: Working at gratitude this Thanksgiving
I have always loved Thanksgiving. I love that it is a holiday built around a full table and homemade treats. I love the recipes handed down on index cards that only get made once a year and traditions that bring back childhood memories and the chance to use linen napkins and the idea that sitting around a table—just sitting around a table—is reason enough to celebrate.
I think it might be my favorite holiday. I like that expectations are reasonably low and yet the holiday provides an opportunity for people who care about one another to get together.
Of course, things are different this year.
I’m told my extended family will have a “Zoom Thanksgiving,” and I’m trying to be more excited about that than I am. Thanksgiving will be, by necessity, a significantly pared-down affair this year. But I am still looking forward to it. My husband, Peter, and I will celebrate with his sister, Lori, and her husband, Robert. Lori has been fighting cancer all this year and last. We’ll be even more careful than usual so we can share this meal at opposite sides of a room with her. And, yes, we will be grateful.
Because we didn’t know if Lori would be alive to celebrate this holiday. But she will be there, eating turkey and breaking her dietary restrictions to have a piece of pie and a glass of wine and I know there will be laughter and someone (probably Lori) will tell at least one rude joke and all of us, at our little gathering of four, will be more than usually grateful.
Cancer has been held at bay for another year. Yes, there have been deaths and losses, but there has also been a lot of laughter and some learning in this difficult year and (while it sounds cliché) a new appreciation for how important our relationships are.
My friend Marisa recently had a dream so powerful she felt compelled to share it on Facebook. She dreamed she had died and come back to life and was trying to tell everyone how special and amazing this was, how amazing life was, and no one would listen.
“Maybe you’ll listen,” she wrote.
“Times are really rough, I know,” she continued, “and more so for some of us than for others. But this life is a gift full of little gifts. I hope you find some of them in your day today.”
Another friend told me he was suspicious of people like Marisa who were always looking for something to be happy about. If you had to “work to be happy,” it wasn’t “natural,” he said. He may be right.
But just as we’re able to extend Lori’s life or replace a broken hip or clean our teeth—working at gratitude makes life a lot more pleasant, a lot more bearable, a lot more fun. If that’s unnatural, I’m in favor.
This Thanksgiving, Peter will make the stuffing his grandmother always made. I will make at least two kinds of pie, rolling pastry the way my mother taught me. Lori will get out her family china and silver—although we won’t be using many place settings this year. Robert will set the table because he’s gotten good at that in these months of Lori’s illness, and Lori will probably ask us, as she has at Thanksgiving gatherings in the past, to share something we are thankful for.
And, in spite of everything, I don’t think any of us will have to work too hard to come up with something to say.
Till next time,
Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.