Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give thanks for the abundance we have. In the United States, it is held on the fourth Thursday of November and commemorates the feast in November 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians celebrating the recent harvest.
William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, wrote in his journal that they ate wild turkeys and venison. Edward Winslow, a chronicler, wrote of “many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men.” It must have been a grand gathering. It had been a hard winter, though, and www.history.com states that “Seventy-eight percent of the women who had traveled on the Mayflower had perished that winter, leaving only around 50 colonists to attend the first Thanksgiving…among the pilgrims, there were 22 men, just four women, and over 25 children and teenagers.”
Today’s images of Thanksgiving dinners include turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, gravy, plenty of side dishes, and lots of desserts. Everyone in the family gathers at one home eating too much food and then watching football, falling asleep, or going for a walk to get rid of some of those calories. It can be a day of remembering past dinners, family members no longer with us, and older family talking about what it was like in their younger days.
I remember preparing my first Thanksgiving meal as a young mother. It was a lot of hard work and I agonized over it. It has become one of my favorite times of the year. There is something wonderful about the delicious aromas of the turkey in the oven and other food permeating the house.
One year we had 22 people sitting around 4 tables that we managed to fit into our kitchen. The chairs were back to back but it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference as everyone was having a good time. Those were wonderful years when the kids were young and my parents were still alive. My mother always made a delicious salad of fruit and real whipped topping, and the kids always asked her to bring it. Then as our kids grew older, I sent care packages home with them filled with leftovers.
For several Thanksgivings, we invited an elderly gentleman named Bruce whom my husband had known for many years. Bruce was in his 80s and had no family of his own.
Making Thanksgiving dinners finally became too much for me physically due to my battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I had to stop. I miss making the dinners and having the family all together at our home.
Giving thanks is something we can do every day. Many counselors suggest making a list of three items every night before bedtime of the things which we are grateful for that day. Perhaps the day started terribly, a co-worker made an unkind remark, the repairs on your car are going to cost over $800, your kids are hyper, and now your 83-year-old aunt from Pennsylvania calls at dinnertime and wants to visit. You really don’t have time to talk to her, but you know you should. So you do, and that takes about 45 minutes which then makes dinner late. All in all, you feel grumpy. Writing a list can actually help you appreciate the things that happened during the day. Maybe it was the person who let you in line at the store, the child who colored a picture for you, someone who smiled at you, or your friend who picked up coffee and delivered it to you at work. All those seemingly little things help us get through the day and we should be thankful.
We don’t often think about it, but we can also be grateful for the things we don’t receive. As Alexander Graham Bell said, “When one door closes, another opens.” Years later you look back and see that it really was in your best interests to have had to make a different choice. Sometimes we just can’t see that aspect of the situation when it is happening.
In November and December, I especially think of our troops away from their families during the holidays. VT S.U.P.P.O.R.T.S. collects items and donations all year long to pack boxes filled with basic necessities and various foods to send to the troops. It is always nice to get a note back about how thankful they are to have a little bit of home wherever they are stationed. The packing of the boxes is an event that the community can do together to say thank you. This year the packing event will be on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m. at the Elks Club in St. Johnsbury.
When we feel ungrateful, take a minute to look around. It won’t take long to see the struggles others are having such as cancer, young families trying to make ends meet, illnesses no one has any idea how to treat, drug and alcohol addictions, and those who are lonely and have no immediate family.
Life is a journey. Every day of that journey is a gift and I, for one, am very thankful.