Thanksgiving had always been my favorite holiday. All my life. I have always loved Autumn in Michigan. Crisp, colorful leaves and cider mills and favorite, soft sweatshirts…All those years when my Michigan Wolverines were lining up against the Ohio State Buckeyes late in November with a Rose Bowl berth on the line. Christmas was still ahead and Thanksgiving marked the beginning of a wonderful, magical season full of great foods and great people coming.
I loved my Mom’s chocolate turkey cookies and her stuffing and a house full of friends and relatives eating a turkey that was, literally, too big to fit in the oven. My Mom baked pumpkin muffins in the morning and she and I watched the parade from downtown Detroit. There were pies cooling and a fire crackling and I formed a lot of my versions of ideal all those years.
And then my Dad died on Thanksgiving Day seven years ago and it has really never been the same.
We rushed out of the house that afternoon, turning off the oven and leaving the turkey to fend for herself. Potatoes on the stove top. Sweet potatoes on the counter. Rolls left to dry in a basket on the table. Butter wilting. The sound of the Detroit Lions left on the TV.
And I guess we have never been the same, either. Even unspoken, that day screams in each of us..
But tonight, as I was beginning to arrange the kitchen…While I was putting the Thanksgiving china in the dishwasher and gathering the serving utensils…
I felt that old familiar tug. That same giggled thrill of a time long-past.
Thanksgiving, I knew, was here again. Still. Thanksgiving, i realize, is bigger than me.
There are thousands of cancelled flights tonight on the East Coast, stranding and straying and fraying millions of people. There are fires burning around the country in protest of a court case in Ferguson, MO. There are still politicians playing games and terrorists killing families and people doing all sorts of horrific things to each other.
And Thanksgiving’s coming, anyway.
That should tell us something.
What I realize tonight is that Thanksgiving is not a reward. It’s not what we give, like a tip after a meal. It’s not simply a measure of what we have and how fortunate we have been.
Thanksgiving is way bigger than that.
We all can say, “I am thankful because….” and tick off all the ways we are well off or better off. All the nice things we have. Good health and beautiful children and a job we enjoy. All the beautiful homes and cars and things….
But what if Thanksgiving is more than that? More than a list of things that are right? More than a day? More than a prayer on a Sunday? More than a meal once a year on a Thursday?
What if Thanksgiving was who we are…
What if all we had to do was to open up, to rise up, to wise up.
What if we felt and lived and gave Thanksgiving, not because of things that go well but in spite of things that don’t?
I know we’re not perfect in this. I’m certainly not. I’ve got things going on. We all do. I’ve been bleeding since June and still since my surgery in October. My checking account doesn’t even have five dollars in it. I spent twelve hundred dollars fixing my car and it still makes the same flippin’ noise. I’ve got aching hands and growing chins and stuff to do that I don’t have the time or the money to take care of. We’ve been plunged into winter a month early and, even since my surgery three weeks ago, I’ve known four people who have been rushed to the hospital for surgeries and emergencies of their own.
And still Thanksgiving bubbles up and spills out of me and I realize that it’s not because of the day. It’s because it’s A DAY.
And maybe that is the whole ballgame, right there.
It is telling that Thanksgiving changes dates every year. Maybe she hints that she cannot be contained by one. Thanksgiving is in the dark, frozen mornings of February. In the soft, warm, breezy evenings of June. Thanksgiving is a Wednesday in September. A Monday’s drive home in May.
Thanksgiving is every day. It is not because of something particular that happened. Something that pleased us. A raise. A casino win. A good test grade.
It is because anything happened at all.
We can distract ourselves with reasons why a day is lousy. Canceled flights and nights slept on airport floors. Flat tires or hard days at work. Fussy babies or screaming kids. Apathetic spouses or rising bills. Growing wrinkles or loud neighbors. Whatever. Any of it. We all get bogged down in the muck.
But to wake up again…
To be given another day of….
We may think we are victims of fate, slaves of the system, whatever we come up with.
We may lament how the government steals and the bosses take and this person and that doesn’t appreciate, doesn’t recognize, doesn’t give…
But we wake up each morning with choices that are ours alone. And that makes every morning one of Thanksgiving.
Let’s make no mistake…t’s our choice to stay at a job, stay in a relationship, stay in a certain body…It’s our choice to stay or go, end or start, jump in or avoid.
Although we are good at them and maybe, even, people will buy them, our arguments and reasoning and excuses and justifications really don’t fool anyone.
In the end, we can spend our whole lives finding ways to be angry and bitter and miserable and slighted and disrespected and wronged. If we look hard enough and with the right bias, with the right angle, with the right sneer….we will find something to reinforce what we choose to believe.
It’s up to us if we choose to believe in Thanksgiving. If we choose to wear it and speak it and live it and breathe it.
Thanksgiving is an optimism and a faith that is stronger than any lesser evidence. Any smaller distractions. Any tired tendencies. Any aged beliefs.
Let’s choose to make Thanksgiving not a moment of turkey in the afternoon. But, rather, a morning that is full of choices. Choices gifted to us by another day. Any day. Every day.
Every day of Thanksgiving.