Thanksgiving always meant that three days before the big food day, Mom would grab a five-gallon pail from the basement, scrub it out, and dump in a brine of vinegar and liquid smoke and all other kinds of magic. Then in plopped a giant frozen bird to soak for a minimum of 48 hours, later finding its home in the oven, sometimes on the stovetop, and always on the table where greedy fingers picked and snagged shreds while Mom carved it.
Pie crusts rolled out the day before Thanksgiving, sometimes earlier, filled to the brim with creamy, cinnamony butternut squash puree (Mom's favorite alternative to pumpkin) and buttery, sugary pecan filling. On the morning of Thanksgiving, we peeled bags of potatoes, set the table, and hauled out containers of frozen corn from the freezer that had been fresh from the garden just a few months earlier.
And then, with pots and pans simmering and bubbling on the stove, Mom putzing around to make some last minute coffee, we'd twiddle our thumbs and think of what game we wanted to play until it was time to eat.
One year, when I was maybe six years old, Dad sat us down with pieces of paper and told us to write down what we were thankful for. I remember writing family on one line, food on the next, and then looking around with a blank stare. I might have written down a few more random strangling thoughts of gratefulness before I whined to Dad that there was nothing else left to be grateful. I looked over at sissy's paper, and she had already filled it almost to the bottom of the page. I couldn't figure out how she had discovered so many things to be thankful for. Dad sat me on his lap and asked me what happened if someone had a fire. "The firemen take care of it," I said.
"Shouldn't we be thankful for them, then?"
Gratitude really is just that simple. Firemen, food, family, water. All basic things that we might take for granted or just not even notice on a daily basis; they're all huge blessings. And that question, what happens if there's a fire? has sat on my mind for quite a while now and it's led me to think about all the other simple things in this one big beautiful life that I take for granted. So here's my 2017 Thanksgiving list, abbreviated for sanity's sake.
1. My Savior, whose promises are always true, even in the black of night.
2. My husband and his servant attitude that lifts me up and carries me.
3. Neighbors who share wood during cold spells and stop to say hi to Jack.
4. Work that pays the bills.
5. Family that thinks of us even though we're far away, that lives life courageously, bearing witness to the power of God at work.
6. Nashville, for stretching and challenging and growing me, for being my home for almost three years.
8. Farmers who spend their whole livelihoods growing the vegetables that I couldn't live without.
9. Writing that feeds my soul and heals my heart.
10. Community and friendship with people who are just like me and also completely different from me.
11. This online space to share my thoughts, musings, and writings.
12. Mentors who have taken a chance on me, given of their time to help me grow.
13. Memory and the power it holds.
14. Storytellers who have paved the way for many to follow with new forms of work.
15. Jack, our dog, for ruining all of my socks and being way too excited to see me every. single. day.
16. Tables, for providing a space around which to share food and build relationships.
17. Blankets that keep me warm and help me feel safe.
18. Tea, for being the drink of comfort at night when caffeine is just too obnoxious.
19. Mental health professionals who champion us to be our full, best, healed selves.
20. Turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, and pie, for being the hallmarks of this holiday.
All around us is evidence that gratitude must be given, from simple things like tea to monumental things like dear friends and family. Here is my challenge to you: If you can't yet adopt a posture of gratefulness every day, then start with just one list, just 20 items. If even that is a challenge, remember, what happens if there's a fire?
Cheers, sweet friends! May your Thanksgiving be sweet, full of cinnamon and turkey drippings.