Giving Thanks and Gratitude…

Today is Thanksgiving.  When I first met my husband, I worked in the men’s and women’s dormitories as a receptionist and was the “Chief Troubleshooter” for residents and parents.  He was one of the many international students who had no family in the area and did not travel home.  The housing office and University moves these students to one dormitory and tries to get them to homes where they can experience the “holidays” that traditionally close most institutions of higher learning.  He was no different.  As I was not traveling to my own home for Thanksgiving due to cash constraints, I invited him to my Grandparents home which was in the same town as our undergraduate school.

I dutifully called my mom and got all the traditional, family recipes and my grandfather came and got me from college and took me to the grocery store.  Do you remember your first “Thanksgiving” cooking adventure? ( I wish we had taken a picture.  Here’s a hint:  Take pictures of the process going on in the kitchen as you teach your children, friends or neighbors:  “how it’s done”…….You will never regret it. )  OK….I couldn’t believe how much shopping there was to do even for the basics.  Who knew it takes a turkey more than a day to thaw…..HA!….not me!  

To get that meal on the table all at the same time and hot is an olympic sport! 

My grandparents stayed out of the kitchen during my Mt Everest learning experience.  I shouted out:  “…where’s your……and they replied from their lazy-boy recliners….”   I think they were secrely smiling at this young woman and proud at the same time that she would tackle this most important of traditional meals by herself.

My future spouse showed up at the appointed time and we sat down.  Everything was perfect, even if I do say so myself…then the reality of all that mess back in the kitchen and the hours of cleanup came into view.  I was spent…my wonderful Grandfather said:  “….that was the best Thanksgiving meal I’ve had in the past decade….I’ll do the dishes…”  I was pleasantly pleased.  My grandmother yelled back in the kitchen the words that wives do when they have long ago given up trying to be “queen of the kitchen and all holiday meals”….”…we’re lucky she’s a good cook, and your son sent her the money to buy the food so we didn’t have to go to the diner to get our turkey dinner….”  It was wonderful to hear the banter of more than 50 + years of marriage echoing through the small stone home.

That began a tradition in my own home.  It seems that for the past 40 Thanksgivings since then, our home has had the privilege to have guests from other nations at our table and to share the meaning of Thanksgiving and the love of family and food with others.  I can say with out equivocation that for almost all of them, this is their first exposure to “American Thanksgiving”, their first taste of “turkey” and their first introduction to a family tradition that our family has shared for 28 years. 

Here is our tradition:  Onto each dinner plate is clipped a small gold candle clip which contains one chubby candle.  After all the food is on the table and the guests are seated and “The Official Photo” is taken, I begin by saying….”Before we enjoy this wonderful food, I’d like to invite you to participate in our own family tradition of Thanks.  Each of your plates has a candle clipped to it.  You may unclip your candle and hold it as I begin.   I will light my candle and I will say all of the things that “I am grateful and thankful for this past year”.  Then I will hold my candle to the right and light the person’s candle on my right and then you will say something that you are grateful and thankful for.  You then will light the candle on your right and so on until we have all the candles at the table lit.  After all the candles are lit, (this part varies depending on who is present), we may say a prayer, or “Thank you God” or something else and we then all blow out our candles.

I deliberately place the new comers to my left so that they can observe the tradition as it unfolds and by the time it is their turn they are comfortable and ready to share their thanks.

So today as I light my virtual candle first on this Thanksgiving 2009, “I am grateful for my spouse and his love and devotion to me and our girls, I am grateful for his financial watchful eye over our family, I am thankful that each of our daughters is employed and have launched successfully and have joyful lives and health, I am thankful for my parents who are alive and in good health and able to enjoy their lives, I am thankful for all of our family members near and far who have spent time with us this past year and for those who could not travel but were there in spirit and by phone.  I am thankful for my beautiful home because it allows me to entertain and shelter those that I love and care about.  I am thankful for my health, my clients, my friends and colleagues.  I am so grateful for a peaceful spirit that knows what I believe and why I believe it.  I am grateful to God for all his many blessing that are poured out over me, our home, our marriage and family.  I am grateful to those who protect and serve our nation and to our leaders who are in a place of responsibility and service to our great nation.

Happy Thanksgiving!   Start you own tradition of Thanks this year!