One of my favorite writers is Brian Doyle who wrote many marvelous prayers, giving thanks for things that are often overlooked, things like well-fitting shoes, hair scrunchies, and wicked hot showers. I started my own list, making my way down the page with as many details as possible. Perhaps you’ll make your own list.
I give thanks for my dog Mandy, particularly the soft white hairs on her chin that weren’t there when she was young. I give thanks that though she often turns her nose up at the food I present on a plate, she still licks every fork in the dishwasher clean. I give thanks for the people she’s helped me meet, like the neighbor who reliably stops mowing or raking leaves or pulling weeds to scratch her behind her ears or on her rump.
I give thanks that though she has set aside old hobbies, eviscerating a plush toy to get to its squeaky heart and bouncing around the neighbor’s yard with the puppy who lives there, she has discovered a new one, hiding and finding and hiding again a rawhide bone as big as her head. Her dedication is proved by the shiny spot she’s worn on her nose from scooping dirt over the bone where she’s placed it under the lemon balm or among the tiger lily leaves.
I give thanks that, though the walks are shorter now without the let’s keep on going pull, she still pushes her nose into piles of leaves and under bushes, and when I say, “Come on, let’s get home” pauses her investigation to look at me and then goes back to her study of the bark at the base of the tree, quelling my hurry to get on with my day so that I simply stand there, waiting, while she contemplates the wonder of the universe.
Thanksgiving is a great holiday. There are limited decorations. No mandatory cards. No trying to remember how much was spent last year on presents that weren’t really appreciated in the first place so that you can spend the right amount on presents this year. No wrapping, packing and shipping the presents. And no debate on Facebook about the right greeting to strangers around Thanksgiving. It’s just “Happy Thanksgiving.” “Happy Turkey Day” is also acceptable.
One of my favorite Northbrook Thanksgivings was the year Rabbi Sid invited me to join him and his family for Thanksgiving. My plan had been to celebrate with friends on Friday and spend Thursday working on a quilt. I had turned down invitations from church folks with this plan in mind. But the day before Thanksgiving Sid insisted my plan was a no-go and I should join them on Thursday night. I did. It was also the first night of Chanukah.
We had turkey and cranberry sauce. And latkes. The pumpkin pie and the ice cream for on top were both dairy free. We debated whether or not this was truly keeping to the spirit of kosher. I realized at that moment that the wine I had purchased was not kosher and internally winced and hoped they could use it as a host gift elsewhere. After dinner we lit the menorah and sang a song. Well, they sang and I listened. And then they opened gifts for the first day of Chanukah and there were even presents for me. Coffee and chocolates I remember.
It was the first Thanksgiving that my husband was gone. Really the second. The first Thanksgiving I didn’t know he was gone. Misplaced, maybe, but not permanently lost. It was so good to be part of Sid’s family for the night. To have jokes tried out on me for an upcoming performance. Hear about college. Get lost in foreign family stories.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is almost always the first Sunday of Advent. We begin to prepare for the love of God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus. On the Emmaus Road, after Jesus had been crucified, two followers of Jesus met a man. When they stopped for meal he revealed himself as the risen Christ in “the breaking of the bread.” That Thanksgiving with the Rabbi’s family was for me Turkey Day, Advent and Easter all rolled into one.