November 25, 2019 10:00 AM
This week’s Courier Herald column:
Every family has their Thanksgiving traditions. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving involved
a trip to my Grandmother’s house where aunts, uncles, cousins, and an
occasional guest or three would have one of the best meals of the year. I come from a long line of great cooks, and
with everyone contributing their best it was hard to wait for the blessing to
be said and work through the hovering crowd to stack a plate high.
It wasn’t like anyone was going to go hungry. There was always plenty for seconds, thirds,
and still have leftovers in abundance.
There’s one thing about southern family meals like this that
always has always seemed to remain a constant over the decades. We never seem to eat at the appointed
time. Home cooking takes longer than it
would seem, and trying to crank out multiple dishes on a single stove while
greeting and hugging friends and family as they arrive sometimes slows things down.
It’s taken a long time, but I’ve generally programmed “dinner
is at 1pm” to an expectation of eating about 1:45. It’s not like I’ve ever had to worry about
But in those early years before I accepted the fact that I
may as well learn the virtues of patience and realistic expectations because things
are going to happen when they happen, there was always a speed bump on my way
to a 4,000 calorie meal: The ritual of
After grandma and her assemblage of cooks & helpers
would declare it was time to eat, we would all assemble in her living room and
each person gathered would have to state what they were thankful for. Some of us understood the need for efficiency
and terseness in times like these, with turkey and trimmings hot and on the
Others, usually the older and more sentimental in the
family, would sometimes go on tangents that seemed to last for years. With as many as 30-40 people present, it
often seemed like grandma should have just wrapped the turkey and put it under
the tree to be opened on Christmas. It
sure seemed like it might take that long to get to it.
Growing up, I loved everything about Thanksgiving except the
part of giving thanks. (Well,
mostly. We’ll leave off the story about
a year UGA was playing Tech on Thanksgiving Day and I was instructed by an aunt
to cut the TV off when Georgia was completing a scoring drive.)
It’s a lesson that age and becoming one that values
nostalgia has taught me over time, in many ways. In too much of life, our focus is on our
immediate needs and gratification at the expense of understanding what is
really going on around us.
Life is a collection of experiences, and the knowledge we
gain from those – good and bad – leads to both wisdom and perspective. Part of that perspective is an appreciation
of so many things that were taken for granted as a child, teenager, and even as
a younger adult.
It’s easy to understand this as an older adult, as so many
of the things we were thankful for are people that are no longer with us. Missing something, and especially someone,
makes us truly understand what we had.
The younger ones gathered are still on the front end of
their experience gathering. We need to
understand with their impatience and preference of staring at phone screens
that we were once in their shoes, just waiting for the adults to quit talking
so we could eat and get back to what we wanted to be doing. They’re likely not
ungrateful, they just don’t yet fully appreciate the ritual of articulating
I’ve learned in this life that I have so much to be thankful
for, and that I’m actually quite fortunate for what I have. I know many others that haven’t had the
family, friends, or frankly, the love that I’ve been surrounded with throughout
The meal is just a symbol of that. I remain truly thankful
that for the things that matter, I’ve always been able to go back for seconds
or thirds, with leftovers in abundance.