Browsing Category Gratitude

Reminiscing Thanksgiving Holidays Past

Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday. Not everybody celebrates it, and if you are one of those bodies who don’t, that’s okay. It’s your prerogative.

But tradition is ingrained in my soul, and every year around this time, nostalgia embraces me like a Snuggie blanket. As I write this, Thanksgiving Day is slightly more than 72 hours away. And I remember.

I remember when I was a very young child, Thanksgiving was the time when our family would often kiss the city goodbye and head south to visit our relatives in the Tar Heel State. Usually, we stayed with our maternal grandmother at her farmhouse. Some of grandma’s other grown children would arrive with their families, and we would reunite with our numerous cousins and other relatives, those who arrived for the holiday weekend, and those who lived in the small town near grandma’s farm.

During the years when my family did not go to grandma’s house for the holiday, Mother would sometimes prepare the Thanksgiving meal and we would pitch in to help. As her children grew older and we had families of our own, we’d sometimes bring a dish that we prepared at home; creating sort of a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember one year when I volunteered to bring the collard greens. What I did not realize after cooking what I thought would be a chef-d’oeuvre, not only were the greens undercooked, they were poorly seasoned. I had failed to add any of the staples for making a delicious pot of southern-style greens. No ham hocks or fatback or smoked neckbones. Minus those cholesterol clogging meats I should have seasoned the greens with table salt, but I didn’t think to do that. Can you say bland?

I don’t remember anyone complaining about the greens during the meal, although some of the suddenly wide-eyed expressions by folks when they began eating them should have been a giveaway. One forkful and everyone around the table knew that those were not my mother’s collard greens. Mother was born and raised in North Carolina, and back in those days, if southern women learned nothing else, they surely learned how to cook. And when it came to cooking collard greens, my mother could burn. She put her foot in it. If you are not familiar with the vernacular, those latter expressions are compliments, meaning mother’s greens were supreme.

After dinner, mother pulled me aside and trying to spare me from hurt feelings; she gently told me, “The greens were okay, but you should have cooked them a little bit longer and added some seasoning.”

That was my first attempt at cooking fresh collards. (Canned and frozen greens were the norm for this busy working mom.) Lesson learned. Do not volunteer to prepare a dish that you’ve never cooked for a family holiday dinner. Since then, thank God, I’ve learned to properly cook and season greens.

Sometimes, after our holiday dinner, we would clear the table, cleaned-up, and enjoy playing Bid Whist. (A note for the uninitiated — Bid Whist, is a card game where bidding partners strive to earn high points to win).

My younger brother was often my partner. Sometimes mom and dad played against us or my sister would be mother’s partner. If other whist-playing relatives, like my Aunt Sarah and Uncle James, were visiting, they would be partners. When there were enough people playing we would play rise and fly. That’s when you lose, and if there are other folks waiting to play, the losing partners get up, and another couple sits down to play.

I cherish those good times.

Unfortunately, as unavoidable as it is, things change, and so do people. Our family Thanksgiving holiday gatherings at my parents’ home ended way too soon. I’ve tried to maintain the tradition with my immediate family including grandchildren with the hope that after I’m dead they will have as many treasurable memories of family holiday gatherings as I have, and the tradition will become part of the family legacy for them as it did for me.

Due in part to PC and sometimes to religious beliefs, Thanksgiving Day, like Christmas and so many other festive occasions, has become a cause célèbre. I see the day as a time for gathering, to be with friends and family. If the history and origins of celebrating Thanksgiving Day bother you, then don’t think of the day as celebrating Thanksgiving. Think of it merely as an opportunity to get together with family and friends, some of whom you may not have seen for years (except at a funeral) and enjoy a good meal. It certainly is a convenient time to have the family gathering on a day when a lot of working people have the time off.

Life is short. IMHO sometimes, we need to temporarily set aside our convictions and seize the opportunity to enjoy spending time with those we love because opportunities don’t last. We never know if a loved one that we spend time with today may be gone tomorrow. A missed opportunity can sometimes be a huge regret.

I don’t wait for a particular day to acknowledge things for which I am thankful. I am thankful every minute of every day. I am thankful for my family and friends, including my blog and Facebook friends. Some of my online friends are people who I’ve known for much of my life. Perhaps we met in grade school or grew up together in the old neighborhood. We were friends long before there was social media. And some of the friends who I’ve met online, I’ve known them long enough now to consider them to be genuine friends. They are friends with whom I occasionally talk on the phone, and sometimes exchange birthday cards, email messages, or notes. I am thankful for real friends and also for good neighbors.

I am thankful for good health. I am thankful every day of my life.

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Bullets and Bibles

It was early afternoon, a few days ago. I was sitting at the computer in my home office near the window that faces a quiet intersection in our usually serene neighborhood. As I often do during a lull in creative thought, I lean back in my chair, fold my arms behind my head, clasp my fingers together, and thank God for all of my blessings. Suddenly all hell broke loose outside. The silence was shattered by a barrage of what sounded like loud gunshots at least a dozen, maybe two.

Immediately, I did what any cognizant city-dweller would do. I leaped headlong out of my chair onto the carpeted floor. And then it happened again. More shots rang out, only not as many. Unlike the initial volley, this round sounded muffled.

I lay there for a few minutes waiting to hear a blood-curdling scream or at least frantic cries for help. Nothing. As I slowly pushed myself to my knees, the humorist in me had a comedic moment. I thought about the television commercial that shows an elderly person prone on the floor crying, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”

Fortunately, I could get up, but before I stood, I crawled over to the open window and listened intently. Cars sounded like they were passing along the street at normal speed, not burning rubber speeding away. Some youngsters were laughing across the street near the Charter school. It seemed safe to peek through the Venetian blinds so I did so, all the while praying that a bullet would not crash through the window and shoot me in the eye. As far as I could see – down the street, across the street near the community garden, everything looked normal. People, apparently unshaken by the temporary disturbance, were walking along going about their business. The police precinct is at the end of the block. I figured if those were bullets that I had heard flying, there would have been cops and police cars with flashing lights all over the place.

Later that day, I mentioned the incident to a neighbor who told me that she had just walked outside heading to her car when she heard the first volley and saw smoke coming from the side of the building. “I hauled it back inside as fast as I could.” She said. We concluded that the incident was caused by some wisecrackers, probably school kids who thought it would be fun to set off fireworks and scare the bejeebers out of folks in our sedate neighborhood.

The fear of having to dodge bullets is one of the perils of living in the city; the suburbs are not exempt either. Sadly, many people everywhere don’t feel completely safe anywhere. We live in a state of trepidation.

Facts have shown that it is as easy to be struck by a bullet when you are inside your home as when you are outside. How often do we hear news reports about a bullet crashing through the wall or window of someone’s home and striking an unsuspecting person inside like 12-year-old Badr Elwaseem who was shot and killed while watching TV or the 21-year-old woman whose head was grazed by a bullet that crash into her home while she was sleeping in bed?

Inside schools. At the mall. In church. In today’s violent and chaotic society all sites are fair game for callous persons with weapons. It doesn’t matter where you are when danger arrives, and that reality is emotionally draining.

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When you are retired, you know that you have entered into the final chapter of your life. (Don’t let that statement rattle you. It’s true. Accept it. I do.) Every morning when I awake to see a new day, I thank God. As I revealed earlier, I give thanks for all things – big and small – all the time. For every breath that I take. I give thanks.

Some people keep what is called a gratitude journal. Psychology researchers assert the advantage of maintaining a gratitude journal. Their studies indicate that there are psychological and physical health benefits that come from the simple act of writing down the things for which we are grateful; even simple things like being in good health or having a comfortable bed to sleep in at night instead of on a park bench or cold concrete sidewalk. When I can sit down at my computer and write out a blog post within an hour, instead of a stressing over it for days with several rewrites, I say “Thank you, God.”

A growing anti-religious bias makes some people feel like criminals for saying the word, God. Some of you reading this post probably cringed every time you saw the word on this page. I don’t regularly write my appreciation in my journal, but whether I write it or say it in my mind expressing gratitude has become as normal for me as breathing.

As I’ve often said, I don’t support organized religion, but I believe in God, and I express gratitude continuously. Today I thank that Higher Power for the realization that what I heard outside my home the other day were not gunshots. Not that time anyway.

Good and evil. God and guns. Bullets and bibles. Those are the facts of life.

 

 

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