Thinking about Thanking

Find your Thanksgiving day gratitude.

by Cherri Ellis

Even though we’ve been walking through retail’s elaborate Christmas displays since well before Halloween, the arrival of Thanksgiving means that the holiday season is now indisputably upon us.  Thanksgiving gets a little dissed in terms of holiday planning. It is so close to Christmas that what you do and with whom is usually contingent on what will go down four weeks later. People typically figure out their Christmas plans, then double back and fill in the details for Turkey Day.

I love Thanksgiving for its simplicity.  Whereas other holidays expect you to DO something, like attend a church service or case the neighborhood for candy or exchange gift-wrapped presents, Thanksgiving is a meal.  Ideally, it is a delicious feast consumed in the company of your family or friends over which you give thanks. Mostly, it is a reason to drag out the 80-pound, turkey- shaped soup tureen that’s been taking up an entire cabinet all year and fill it up with some elaborate bisque you made from scratch off Pinterest. The holiday is made more special by the fact that all over the country, people everywhere are engaged in some variation of the same theme. We can thank Sarah Josepha Hale for that.

Sarah Hale was the woman who made it her life’s mission to get Thanksgiving proclaimed as a specific national holiday. She brought new meaning to the word tenacious.  She lobbied four presidents and every governor every year in writing for 20 years until she finally convinced Abraham Lincoln to proclaim that the USA was to set aside the last Thursday every November as a day to give thanks for our country’s many blessings.  President Lincoln agreed to this because Sarah convinced him that it would unify the country. (If you recall, things got right frosty for a few years between the North and the South.) We also have Ms. Hale to thank for our traditional Thanksgiving menu, even though more accurate research has shown that the original feast included duck, geese, venison, fish, lobster, clams and swan, but no turkey. There was squash and corn but no potatoes, as they were a questionable food source and considered poisonous for a time.  There were no ovens for baking and no pies or bread of any kind. The turkey, dressing, cranberries and pumpkin pie that we all think of as traditional Thanksgiving fare were just foods that Sarah Hale liked and inaccurately guessed to be available to the pilgrims in 1621. The next time you think that one person cannot make a lasting difference in the world, think about Sarah Hale. She was a widow with five children who lived in an age when women couldn’t even vote, yet due to her unflagging efforts, our entire country now stops working on the same day and gathers around a table. (Or a TV set.)

Setting a day aside to be grateful is marvelous in concept.  The unfortunate reality is that on the actual day, my gratitude is either about having not burned the rolls or having remembered to buy back-up rolls for when I burn the rolls. I want the act of thankfulness to occur more often and more deliberately.  William Faulkner got it right when he wrote, “Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”

This November 22, let’s let our gratitude light up our world. Let me get you started with a partial list:

• Be thankful for the people who love you. You are not always a picnic.  Ask around.

•Be thankful for medical technology. Without its sterile processes, arduous research and really, really good drugs, surgery would be a drag.

•Be thankful for the food you are about to receive. Over the holidays, our nation loses its collective mind with regard to eating.  I say, lean into it!  If it’s good, it will be better once its wrapped in bacon or dipped in chocolate or both.  Gluttony isn’t a sin if it’s seasonal and you occasionally run around the block a few times.

•Be thankful for the rich culture of Birmingham. I recently saw The Color Purple at Red Mountain Theater, and the woman playing the main role of Celie blew me away with her immense voice and peaceful delivery.  I could physically feel her voice hitting me when she let it rip.  Her name is Myiesha Duff, and it turns out she is a third-grade teacher, and The Color Purple was her second show ever.  Because we are not New York City or Los Angeles, the people in the arts in Birmingham frequently have other jobs and walk amongst us.  There is much hidden talent here… it’s like we’re the Magic City.

•Be thankful for Spanx. Most of what society deems attractive in the female silhouette is a result of the woman having wrangled into these.  If you are a man and don’t know what Spanx are, ask the first female you see without panty lines.

•Be thankful for WWW.EVERYTHING. If the Pilgrims had had the option of Googling the average temperatures in the new country, more of them would have descendants walking around today.

I guess you can take it from here. You know best how to embrace the season, express your gratitude and love your people for who they are.  And remember — don’t keep the family skeletons in a closet.  Get them out and make them dance.

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One Response to “Thinking about Thanking”

  1. allison burns says:

    Cherri Ellis,

    Your warm,snappy wit is superb! I could read you all day,but the articles always end too

    quickly,leaving me laughing (and,or crying simultaneously) for a sweet while.

    More !


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