The Art of Giving Thanks

I am well enough aware that the internet and blogging community will be full of Thanksgiving posts speaking volumes on the origins and meaning of the Holiday. I will not try to veer from that theme but merely share my thoughts and memories about a the day we all gather to give thanks.

At 5am the motor fired up on Mom’s ancient meat grinder as she fed through it’s churning blades the various and unexpected ingredients for Grandma Lenzen’s German stuffing. I would pull the covers over my head in an attempt to drown out the incessant noise to no avail. Mom and Dad made preparing Thanksgiving dinner for the 6 of us sound like they were creating a feast for the 7 kingdoms. Dad would bark orders, Mom would scurry around the tiny kitchen dicing here, peeling there, stirring this, and mashing that. I watched, learned and then crept off to find the turkey coloring page in the newspaper while watching Macy’s parade on TV.

Then came the wait, and I’m not talking about waiting on the food. The wait for my sister and her husband to make the 30 minute drive to our house which seemed to take them 40 days and 40 nights. When they finally arrived, my sister would unpack her kidney shaped Tupperware container of 7 layer salad and I would go about the business of snatching off as many hard boiled egg slices as I could while no one was looking.

When it was finally time to eat, we all gathered around that old butternut table, said Grace, and dug in. Each flavor was one to savor, so familiar yet foreign in the fact that it had not been partaken of in an entire year. We ate until our eyes bulged then Mom wold bring out dented aluminum pans filled with desserts and we would eat again.

Dishes were washed and games played while Bing Crosby crooned in the background about a white Christmas. It was a cozy time, a time to soak in all the love and comfort that a small family shares. A time to make memories and to recall old ones to laugh over again. I miss those days.

Since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, my mom can no longer commandeer the kitchen. Part, a huge part, of the Holiday cheer has vanished. The food doesn’t taste the same because her hands and her love are not preparing it. The memories are not as funny, home doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. Yet, time goes on.

Change is something we expect in life except when it comes to the holidays. We never want to see that picture postcard Thanksgiving or Christmas of our childhood to ever end. The holidays are the one thing we can still count on as adults to give us the wonder of being a child again. We look for Santa at the mall, we gaze fondly at brightly wrapped presents, we snatch colorfully iced cookies off of sugar laden trays, and we watch Christmas programs on TV just to capture the nostalgia of a time when innocence had not yet been lost to the demands of adulthood.

Like a time machine, boxes of decorations take us back as we unwrap memories with each ornament. We prepare food that has the flavor of times long past that allow us to cling to happy memories of moments that will never be again.

For me, the holidays may have lost a bit of their cheer but I give thanks for the memories I do have of a warm home, good food, and family. Although things will never be the same perhaps it is a sign that it is time to make changes of my own. To share the blessings, invite new members to my circle, volunteer more and give others the chance to expierece the holidays through my eyes. Giving thanks is not to be isolated to one day but something practiced the year over. The gifts of the season are not to be contained in boxes and stockings but to pour forth from full hearts and believing souls. So, on this approaching Thanksgiving I wish all of you the very best and challenge you to make one change in your routine that includes touching a life that might not otherwise have reason to celebrate. God bless.

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