Growing up Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. Christmas seemed to have high expectations with accompanying stress. But Thanksgiving was simply a time for adults and kids to gather around the table and eat well.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories is my Dad and his two brothers, Freddy and Bob cooking the Thanksgiving meal while the women visited and the kids played. They didn’t cook every Thanksgiving but every few years they’d make the decree that ‘this year the boy’s are cooking’. I still remember the smell of the turkey wafting from the kitchen filling the living room with anticipation.
The last Thanksgiving the three brothers were together was 2000. I remember working with several cousins alongside Bob, Freddy and Norman. The location was a rented Masonic hall kitchen. In the main room approx. 50 family members gathered. My daughter Katelyn then age 7 had travelled with me from Oregon to spend this holiday with her east coast family. It was a special time to celebrate the ties that bind us one to the other. Stories were told, great food enjoyed, jokes cracked and board games played.
By the next Thanksgiving both Norman and Freddy had passed away. While that Thanksgiving was 15 years ago it remains one of my favorite memories.
Each Thanksgiving is an opportunity for memories to be made. The common element in each gathering large or small, is the choice to be grateful. It has been said that the antidote to unhappiness in life is the choice to offer thanks. The choice to take time to be mindful of the gifts, the blessings in life.
Scientist tell us that the regular practice of being grateful improves one’s health both physiologically and emotionally. Being grateful lowers your blood pressure and elicits dopamine, the pleasure sensor in one’s brain. When we choose to practice an attitude of gratitude we simply become happier.
Surely there’s a lot of pain and cause for worry in the world. Yet, there’s also much to be grateful for. Today for example I made a new friend, saw a drop dead beautiful full moon rising over the marsh grass outside Boston and spoke with my brother on the phone. It’s been a good day and I choose to mark such moments by being grateful.
Thanksgiving is a day that reminds us to pause, break bread with family, friends and sometimes strangers and take a moment and say ‘thanks’. The 14th century monk and mystic, Meister Eckhart said it all: “If the only prayer we ever offer is thank you, that would be enough”. And to that I say Amen!