Friday, November 28, 2008

Hello all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Something this morning is compelling me to put down some thoughts about Thanksgiving. I receive a daily electronic newsletter on business, entrepreneurship, and personal growth. All this week, members of the staff have been taking turns listing their top ten favorite things about Thanksgiving – more to the point, the Top Ten Things they’re thankful for.


For me, as the youngest of four kids spread over 17 years and flung to the four geographic winds, “over the river and through the woods…” has often meant a car trip of 500 to 1000 miles or more: Manhattan, Kansas to Denver, Colorado; New Paltz, New York to Wamego, Kansas; Albert Lea, Minnesota to Chicago; Albert Lea to Lufkin, Texas; Albert Lea to Wamego; Minneapolis to Wamego; Minneapolis to NE Colorado.

Each one of those trips was a long ride in a cramped car, with family not seen in many months and perhaps a couple of years waiting at the other end. I remember listening to self-help books on tape for 1100 miles on my way from Minneapolis to Colorado one year. Another year I had my two small kids, Caitlin and Melissa, sitting in the back seat with stacks of library books, crayons, and toys piled high around them as we cruised through the grey Iowa landscape. When I was young, my parents and I made a loooooong road trip from Albert Lea to East Texas to see my brother Jack and his wife, Carol. Man! I thought that trip would NEVER end! Lufkin, Texas stole my heart however. What a beautiful little city, tucked into the pine woods of East Texas .

And of course, the food. My Mother’s “wet bread” stuffing, which wasn’t stuffing at all because we never did a turkey in those days. “Dressing” is a better word for it, made in a Corningware casserole and baked in the oven, and it was delicious! I wish I had the recipe, but I wonder if I could repeat the dish. Mashed potatoes and gravy… yummmm! Ham or ham-loaf, our family Thanksgiving meat of choice – I didn’t learn what turkey tasted like until I was 19 years old! Peas, green beans, and – OH YEAH! – turnip potatoes, those weird orange mashed potatoes with turnips mixed in and all mashed up together. I never could eat those… couldn’t get past the color. And rolls, and sweet pickles, and olives… and cranberry sauce. My Mother alternately tried making cranberry sauce from scratch – which never jelled – and serving it out of a can. To this day, it really isn’t Thanksgiving for me without cranberry sauce in a lovely crystal dish – with the tin can’s rippled sides molded into the sauce. (Side note: every year my sister still tries to make cranberry sauce from our Mother’s recipe. When we talk across the miles on Thanksgiving Day, she always gives me the report on whether the sauce jelled. She’s always a bit disappointed when it does.)

Which brings us to family. Family is perhaps what we, each and every one of us, are most thankful for. Health, security, world peace, a good hair day, and a clean, ironed shirt are all blessings of course, but having family makes the absence of one or more of those tolerable. I remember the first Thanksgiving that I was able to out-eat my big brother. Paid for it later of course. I remember the time I thought I had to eat everything my kids left on their plates (after cleaning my own) so the food wouldn’t go to waste. Paid for it later of course (ooo… that was a bad one). I remember being a little kid, basking in the warmth of laughter, snacks, and a game of Parcheesi, listening as my family caught up on all the happenings of their separated lives, rejoined for a few days in the late fall of the year.

I remember so many Thanksgivings, traveling in a car across a cold, snowy or icy landscape – west Kansas, Iowa north to south, never-ending Nebraska east to west, Pennsylvania-Ohio-Indiana-Illinois-Missouri, with Family at the other end of the trip. Hugs and handshakes, carrying the suitcases in out of the car, spilling over with news of our lives, and never enough time to get everything covered. But it’s OK. Family understands… and now we have e-mail and cell phones and web videophones, if we remember to use them, all relatively free to use so we can keep up between Thanksgivings.

To you, all my family and extended family, I hope this little missive, describing what I remember and what I’m thankful for, has jogged a few memories from across your years, and helped you reflect on what this holiday means to you. You all mean the world to me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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