What I'm Thankful For - 2012

When I was younger – and did not possess a computer linked to the World Wide Web – Thanksgiving was a time spent remembering the country’s history and contemplating how the legend of that first Harvest Meal, shared by both the Indians and the Pilgrims, shaped our culture.  We gave thanks before the traditional Thanksgiving Meal of turkey, stuffing, and candied yams and put aside any differences with those around us in a unified effort to remember that we are all Americans and, as such, share commonalities that make us friends instead of enemies.

This year, however, I marked the passing days of November by reading daily Facebook postings of gratitude from my friends and family.  I also read blog posts filled not only with humor but also introspection regarding individuals’ personal life experiences for which they are grateful for one reason or another.  And these posts and essays have given me reason to pause and contemplate what Thanksgiving does – and should – mean to my modern self.

As one who embraces and celebrates tradition, I still find merit in the story of the first Thanksgiving.  This tale reminds us that America has always been a great melting pot of adventurous and courageous people looking for some sort of asylum from an oppressive situation, be it political, religious, or economic.  It also demonstrates how different cultures can find a common ground on which to base friendship and trust.  In the Thanksgiving Story, this common ground is gratitude for a successful harvest after a long, difficult year filled with starvation, disease, and death.  As is often the case even in modern times, food and drink provided an opportunity for the two cultures to put aside their differences and celebrate life.

Thanks to President Lincoln, Thanksgiving has been an official American holiday since 1863.  Naturally, new cultures have brought changes to the way Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, but the overall theme has persisted: give thanks for your blessings.

So, what blessings am I thankful for this year?  Of course I am thankful for the obvious: a roof over my head; a loving husband who is my best friend and continues to support my many projects and (sometimes) crazy ideas; my children who are not afraid to pursue their interests and goals; friends who support me and cheer for my successes (and overlook my failures); a brother who never hesitates to call me and ask my opinion (even if he really doesn’t want to hear it); the many opportunities I have found in my community to volunteer my talents in ways that (hopefully) will make a difference in someone’s life; the ability to pay the bills and put food on the table (either at home or in a restaurant); and education, just to name a few.

Mostly, though, I am thankful for my parents.

After my parents divorced when I was six years old, my mom moved us from Pennsylvania down to my grandparents’ home in Florida.  It was difficult spending the majority of the year so far away from my dad, but my mom made sure my brother and I spent our summers with him back in PA.  Yes, I know she did this as much for her own sanity as she did to ensure we maintained a relationship with our father in spite of the divorce, but her efforts paid off in the long run. 

As a result of his abbreviated time with us, my dad saved all his vacation time up for the months that he knew we would be with him in order that he might make the most of our visits.  On his non-vacation days, he left work promptly at 5:00 p.m., and usually even earlier on Fridays so that he could take us to visit our extended family in Long Island.  We spent more time together during those visits than I’m sure we would have done had we lived closer during the rest of the year.  As a result, my dad and I enjoy a very close relationship to this day – and the same can be said for my brother and my dad.

Meanwhile, back in Florida my mom acted as main Parent: disciplinarian, cheerleader, chief breadwinner, and truant officer.  School was everything and always came first.  It is because of her conscientious oversight of my scholastic endeavors that I received a degree from a quality academic institution.  She never told me that I couldn’t succeed at whatever whacky idea I pursued – she did, however, tell me I was not allowed to quit something once I started.  She set impossibly high standards for me, something that I resented when I was younger (especially on those school nights when she would not allow me to join my friends outside for a game of hide-and-seek) but for which I now credit my strong work ethic and sense of responsibility.  As a teenager, I listened with respect and curiosity (and sometimes embarrassment) when she provided guidance (combined with some personal history) for handling age-old teen issues such as sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  She was – and is – brutally honest and I respect and admire her for that.

Both my parents told me I could be – and do – anything I wanted to.  There were no “girl” jobs or roles or responsibilities in our household.  There were just “jobs” or “chores”.  And we were constantly reminded that hard work and intelligence were not gender-specific.  To this day my parents are still my greatest supporters and encouragers.  Their greatest desire for my brother and me is that we are happy in our lives and that we utilize our strengths and gifts to realize our fullest potential as human beings.

Make no mistake, they were not perfect.  Guilt from her actions regarding their divorce haunted my mom while we were growing up.  A lack of desire to discipline us during his short time with us crippled my dad’s judgment sometimes.  And once or twice they chose partners who wanted nothing to do with us.  And when you are a kid, you don’t always understand that your parents are human, too.

But, as an adult I know that my work ethic is an extension of my parents’ desire to teach me to be a responsible citizen.  I know that my self-confidence and courage to face challenges stem from my parents’ constant assurance that I am intelligent enough to overcome any obstacle placed before me.  I know that my decision to marry my husband and start a family was born of the idea (planted by my parents) that marriage is a relationship between two friends who not only love each other but also harbor feelings of mutual respect and admiration toward each other.  And I know that my love for my children comes from the example of unconditional love set before me by my own parents.  (I do, however, claim my sense of style as all my own.  I’m sure that they are now giving thanks for this small concession.)

So, this year as I sit down to the annual Thanksgiving meal with my family, I will offer thanks for my parents.  Because of them I am who I am today – the good and the bad – and they are the reason why I have so much to be thankful for in the first place.

 

 

For more posts like this, come see me at www.sinceyouaskeddawn.com

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