The small sounds of metal clinking against china ring up the stairs from the kitchen below. I can hear the sound of the heater thump – and begin humming away – and we are up before the birds. Keely is already up and at ‘em. I can tell it is cold outside from the crisp light gray of the new winter dawn light. It is Thanksgiving morning.
Preparations for dinner are already underway and the echoes of these familiar sounds tinkering through the house put me in a deep, nostalgic mood. Before the day has barely got a foothold, pies are already being laid out on platters next to stacks of smallish plates and condiments are being scooped into little cups and bowls, covered and set aside with their tiny little spoons – all in preparation for the feast.
Today we are having 27 for dinner. The thought of it makes me shudder for a second, and then a warm calm comes over me – starting from the tops of my shoulders and then slowly falling down my chest and arms. It ends up down at my toes and I am at peace. The nervous anticipation has me daydreaming about how much ice we will need and the hundreds of little hospitalities that come with the task of hosting such a celebration… It is a gathering.
Now, my wife is from England and we have her mom visiting for the holidays. Being that this is an utterly American holiday, she asked me yesterday about the meaning behind Thanksgiving. For the first time since about 4th grade I had to tell the story about the Pilgrims and the Indians and such (sadly without the costumes).
These traditional tales are retold because we learn things from our past. Through the generations we strive to make things better for our children and easier for our families to live with a feeling of peace and safety in the world. Hopefully, we get better with the lessons that we are given along the way… hopefully.
In this climate of hysteria about the threat of immigrants and terrorists, it is a good tale to tell actually. It’s hard to feel that there is peace these days.
As I recounted the history of our traditions, we all made a few poking jabs at the crazy politicians who are proposing to register the Muslims and the absurdity that Arabs might no longer be welcomed in Texas… There is a lot of fear and nonsense going on these days.
It is good to be reminded that some, many years ago, we were the immigrants… and the local people then, welcomed us in and shared with us what they had to help us bear through the harsh winters and survive early on.
The traditions that we have today are done in honor of that graceful giving spirit and we gather on this day today in gratitude for the help that we have received.
Personally, I am seeing things through such a different lens this year than in years past. My fight for survival this year is not for fear of starvation or freezing out in the cold… and not for fear of terrorists or refugees… but one that is more insidious and internal. As we set up the tables and chairs, I have so much gratitude for the hundreds of kindnesses that everyone has shown me this year.
As I have had to make the long walks through the vast parking lot at the hospital, through the rows and rows of cars, to walk into dreadful appointments and treatments, I have felt invisible hands pushing me along – supporting me to right myself and walk tall.
As I have awoken, feeling alone and afraid in the middle of the night, I have felt the soothing words in my mind of all the prayers that have been sent out to me.
As I have shaved my head, taken my pills, sat waiting in waiting rooms, laid in scanners, had my blood drawn a hundred times and faced the stark realities of this fight, these simple things have carried me through the hardest of times and I, through it all have been able to feel strong and hopeful.
And I want to say thank you – thank you from the bottom of my heart for every sweet thought. It sounds so corny, but I have come to understand that love and prayers do have the power to heal. I have come to believe that love does matter and I have come to embrace that love is enough to challenge the darkest fear. It is not only enough – but it is more than enough.
As families all over gather together today – I send out a prayer of love and thanks – that we can all share the feeling of gratitude – and to remember that for every tiny little spoon and coffee cup – for every marshmallow covered sweet potato, there is some powerful love in there – love that that has the power to defeat the craziest of terrorists – love that has the power to heal the deadliest of diseases, to withstand the harshest of winters and to push the fear back into the darkness… where it belongs.