Thanksgiving

Three weeks from this Thursday families across this country will celebrate a day that Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day in 1863. Prior to that there is evidence that some form of it had been celebrated by various colonies (and later by individual states) as early as 1621; the first such autumn celebration was engaged in by the Wampanoag tribe and the Plymouth colonists.

This year my brother and his wife plan to join us; both my daughters will be present, as well as my son-in-law and my grandson. And once again, I have arranged to be off work. It promises to be a delightful time. I’m sure we will make an excursion to see my parents’ grave markers, and to put new flowers there.

I am also sure that we will overeat a bit, suffer sleepiness from the tryptophan in our turkey, and pecan pie in our bellies, etc. But overall there will be celebration of family, love, and togetherness.

It was interesting (and puzzling) to me years ago when someone close to me said that their favorite holiday was . . . no, not Christmas; rather . . . Thanksgiving Day! Since then I have begun to understand that feeling. Each holiday has its special flare, but I must admit there is something about Thanksgiving that seems foundational, substantial, seminal, the basis of everything that matters in life.

It is, indeed, the celebration of life and togetherness.

This year (in our family) we are trying to think of something each day until November 28 for which we are grateful. We will take turns thinking of a word or theme for each day of the month, share that in the morning with each family member, and remember that item throughout the day. We started two days ago, so the list is not yet long:

  • November 4 – The gift of one more day of life
  • November 5 – The blessing of our various pets throughout the years
  • November 6 – The changing of the seasons (of life, and of the weather)

I don’t know what we will come up with the rest of the month, but I am certain that each item will be full of meaning for each of us. If you have not yet planned something for your family to do as you progress toward Thanksgiving Day, I would highly recommend you try something like this!

We do so little together as families anymore, it seems. It is amazing how unified you feel when you share a little project like this. The rewards are mammoth in comparison with the effort expended.

Give it a try!

Two years ago we met at our house with this same grouping of persons for Thanksgiving Day, and we took a family picture to remember the event. Now two persons in the photograph will be missing this year: my mother, and my niece.

I am certain that in that first celebration of autumn in 1621 there were mixed feelings: gratefulness, as well as sadness; 50 of the 102 persons who made the initial voyage from England died in the first winter there in Massachusetts. Surely that was on each person’s mind as they celebrated that next autumn.

As Garrison Keillor reminisced many years ago (when singing about a family sitting around grandma’s table for Sunday dinner), “children take the places – of folks they never met.” Kermit the Frog says that “life is made up of meetings and partings; that is the way of it.” It has been so ever since the first Thanksgiving; it remains so, today.

{NOTE: If you are not impressed with my philosophical sources, I am sorry; I do not intend to apologize! I give no quarter to persons who do not respect Keillor or Kermit.}

The fall leaves change their color magnificently and with unparalleled flare, reminding us (perhaps) that the passing of life has a beauty all its own, and reminding us (as Abraham Lincoln also said that same year in November) “. . . it is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work . . . to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us . . . .”

And what was that unfinished work, that great task to which Lincoln referred as he reminisced about Gettysburg and the sacrifices made that previous summer? Was it not the work of unifying the divided country, the great task of creating a government that exists “of,” “by,” and “for” the people? And in that, achieving a “new birth of freedom.”

It may seem obvious, but . . . it seems to me that, difficult as it may be to attain, what Lincoln longed for – what each of us longs for – is a country that resembles a family.

Now I do not intend to wax political with you. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am closely akin to Alan Jackson’s description of himself in his song Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).

It may be true that “it takes a village” to rear a child; what I am certain of is that it takes a family to rear a child, empower a young adult, energize the middle-aged, and care for the elderly.

And that is, I think, the element of attractiveness that gives Thanksgiving Day its beauty: it is the day (above all other days) that honors, commemorates, and applauds the concept of family.

Without family . . . well, I shudder to think what we would be like. Selfishness would prevail, of course, and we would have no safe haven where we could unreservedly be ourselves. There would likely be no of whom you could say, “they’ve known me since I was born.”

In the family we find acceptance, encouragement, and identity. We find our true selves.

On Thanksgiving Day we do not look for presents under a tree; rather, we look for presents in the presence of persons around us. Special persons. Parents. Grandparents. Great grandparents. Aunts, uncles, children of all ages.

For the truth is this: we all sit together at the table of life, sharing our bountiful harvest, enjoying the laughter, and clinging to one another through the tears. And as the faces around the table change, one by one, and the old are replaced by the young – we keep on telling the stories of the ones who have gone before us.

At Thanksgiving we get back in touch with our roots; as a nation, but also as individual families. And we rehearse the tales that have made us who we are.

I love Thanksgiving Day.

About ivanbenson

I am a singer, guitar player, writer, story teller, voice over talent, and heart attack survivor in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
This entry was posted in Aging Parents, Family History, Stories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Thanksgiving

  1. Monica Benson says:

    I am crying! This is an excellent reminder! I am thankful for my family and someone’s writing gift!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Jo says:

    I loved Thanksgiving growing up..the family sat around a big table, my dad always carved the turkey, we always had my mom’s specialty..home-made pecan pies. Dad would say grace and we’d dig in. It’s not quite the same with them gone..often now we have it at my sister’s or brother’s. No one says grace anymore. Much of my family are not Christians, except my little sister and her family. Anyway..it is John’s favorite holiday! The church family has always been very important to him. Blessings!

  3. Michael B. Semore says:

    What wonderful words of reflection, Ivan. For us it has become our church family at White Station that has given us sustenance because our birth parents have passed and our siblings are scattered. With Melanie’s recent bout with cancer, I believe that we probably will be here alone together, but not alone. We shall be filled with the wonderful reflections on our life together, our years of teaching, our family of faith, and the wonders of our childhood…and singing together in the Faculty Quartet.
    Blessings on you and your family,
    Michael

  4. Suzanne says:

    Tears welling up in my eyes – this is one of my favorite posts yet and I think you hit the nail on the head about the family! Thank you for sharing & inspiring & reminding us all of the few things that really ARE important in our life…and not all of the other stuff that we generally focus on as being “important”. Love you and appreciate you!

  5. Well put. A beautiful tribute to Thanksgiving and why it matters.

  6. Nancy Vaughn says:

    Well said, Ivan. Please give Ron my best.

  7. denisebensonphotography says:

    I love this, I love this I love it! Thank you for using your gifts and sharing such beautiful and profound thoughts.:) You bless many people with your writing. Love you!

  8. DaveR says:

    “I give no quarter to persons who do not respect Keillor or Kermit.”
    It’s not easy being green! 😉
    Thanks for the post, buddy!

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