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Meandering: Thanking God for unanswered prayers

This column started at 5:30 a.m. in that foggy state when I wanted to sleep but my thoughts wouldn’t stop.

I realized later when awake (well, as awake as I get) that it was fortuitous because in my mind the subject of my thoughts then and now was Thanksgiving, to me a mystical holiday.

Memories float as if in a dream of food and family and the warmth of Thanksgiving, enveloped by a cloudy, misty November day with the promise of Christmas lights to come.

I remember the floor, a rug in front of a clicking radiator in a wood paneled room we called the breakfast room. I am a boy on the floor, looking through a newspaper at advertisements for turkey and ham and toys and reading the comics. In the kitchen my mother and grandmother busied themselves with — well, with whatever they did at Thanksgiving.

The leaves went into the dining room table as it stretched from the buffet to the arch into the living room. Dishes and cups and silverware that I only saw a few times a year came out of the cabinet along the one wall and were arranged on a white table cloth.

Family was coming to dinner. Others, aunts and uncles and cousins mostly, would come to visit during the day.

The televised parade from New York was on TV in the morning and even those who aren’t in love with parades could not help but watch this one.

Years later I would sit with my daughters and later my son and watch the joy, sheer joy of people in the parade and alongside the route. I still watch, can’t take my eyes off it. “Tradition,” Tevye is singing in my head.

I have really enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner on a regular basis in just three places in my life: My boyhood home, my sister’s home, and of late my nephew’s house. In two of them there was a fireplace burning.

Everyone has Thanksgiving memories, from favorite family dishes prepared for the day to those card tables stuck in an adjacent room for the children to sit at together and eat.

Thanksgiving dinner conversation is different. It is about food, a few jokes, a celebration of the good times with a relative who had passed on. Rarely is our work life discussed, though these days it would be good to include having a job in the prayers of thanksgiving.

After the meal, perhaps during a break in the cleanup, is a good time of the day to step outside in the chill evening air and take in the larger world with deep breaths.

It is good because after time spent with family it is appropriate to reconnect with nature or simply the neighborhood in which you live and realize the circle inside the house is connected to that seemingly infinite circle outside the house.

Some traditions involve football — on TV or in “turkey bowls” fought out on neighborhood fields between ex-high school friends.

One of my traditions of late is to use the days surrounding Thanksgiving to put up some Christmas decorations, at least those inside the house.

Thanksgiving to me means that time of year when we in the human family primarily become indoor dwellers, but that can be a special time. Our indoor lives are good and the going out of doors (especially for those who hunt or like to otherwise tramp the woods or eventually go skiing or hit the stores to Christmas shop, or chop down or shop for a tree) is made all that more special by the thought of return to the home fires (or even a radiator or forced air heat) to share the closeness with family.

I like the drive home on Thanksgiving night, seeing the lights shining from the living rooms of other houses and thinking that perhaps others are winding down their holiday inside.

Life can be difficult, but it would be all the more so if we didn’t have at least one day of the year set aside to give thanks for what we have, or for what we don’t have and don’t need, and the grace to know the difference. You know, that “Thank God for unanswered prayers” that Garth Brooks sang about?


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