After the initial cheers and shrieks of toy nirvana, there is the cleanup. The trash bags are filled with wrapping paper as children hold new plastic creations that will temporarily excite them and bring chuckles to the gift givers and “Santas.”
Friday will kick off that shopping frenzy, culminating in that Saturday morning in December. I certainly enjoy witnessing children’s excitement, but personally, my holiday good cheer has largely shifted from Christmas to Thanksgiving. We focus a lot at Christmas on what we can give and get. We focus at Thanksgiving on what we already have. And I think gathering with family, minus all the gifts, is a really nice thing.
At Christmas, we feel pressure to make a material show of importance to those we love. At Thanksgiving, we feel no such pressure. We are just together to talk and eat. The older we get, the more we reflect on family, the presence of those with us, the loss of those not. The leaves are coming off the trees. And we are reminded of all the cycles that go on and on, with or without us. As we age, those material trinkets take their rightful place behind such silent observations.
I look at Thanksgiving, a time of reflection, and feel like I have a choice to make. I can dwell on the sadness of time passing or I can make a list of things I have now and recognize what makes this life good. Actually, in truth, I end up doing a little bit of both.
But I am very thankful for every kiss on the cheek from my daughter, every backwards hand wave from my baby son, every time my wife grabs for my hand, every phone call or visit with my mother, my father, my sister, every kindness extended by my wife’s parents.
I am thankful for hard laughter in another room, for the feel of a fresh hair cut, for the look and smell of a fresh-cut yard, for vanilla bean ice cream, for any old pants that still fit, for good deals at Goodwill, for 10 more minutes of sleep, for a rare afternoon nap, for a winter without a snowstorm, for every successful turn of the light switch or faucet, for Life Cereal, for a tender backstrap of venison, for any triumph over writer’s block — it’s no fun staring so long at “The…”
I am thankful for all who risk their own safety and well being for others, for those who prefer a world of love over hate, help over harm, for those who recognize the beauty in the verse about helping “the least of these” among us. I am thankful that I’m smart enough to recognize my own ignorance — how I still need to work very hard to learn more.
I am thankful for a job, thankful for those who pay to read this newspaper, thankful for those who have taken the time to read all these “thank yous.” I encourage you to make your own list.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.