The Turkey Will Be Smaller This Year

Every year at this time, as I start preparing for the holidays, I also begin to compose a gratitude inventory. Along with the turkey, the pies, the lists, the shopping, the wrappings…I take inventory. I think back over the year and try to recall each opportunity there has been for me to be thankful. And each year, as our family grew and Bob and I moved through different stages, as each child left our home to make their own, as grandchildren, too, began forging their own paths, there were always so many, many warm and wonderful memories to recall.

My lists seemed to grow organically every year.  Times spent with dear friends – new and old, with my sisters and their families for holidays and family celebrations – weddings, anniversaries, christenings, all our kids together reliving their childhood memories, traveling with Bob, skiing and shore vacations with my kids, family dinners, our pets, our church…and the lists went on. Even when a crisis appeared – Bob’s heart surgery, losses, a grandchild’s illness – as traumatic as these were – there was always an opportunity to find gratitude as these are the times when family love is always strongest and most obvious.

But this year my list is turning out to be very different. There have been no grand occasions to list. There have been very few “events” at all. Everything this year has been so different… difficult for many on so many levels. I almost want to give up on the list. But then I think about all the simple, small adjustments we are making in order to keep our lives running as normal as possible. We visit in driveways and on patios around fire pits. Family dinners are merely drop-offs. We shop for groceries at 6 am. We Zoom and Facetime. We wear funny masks to protect each other. We don’t hug, We don’t high five. We text or call just to “check in”. We play endless games of scrabble and rummy, read one book after another, watch hours upon hours of Netflix without any of the quilt. We exist mainly in our “pods”.

We’ve inserted new words and phrases into our everyday conversations  – social distancing, flattening the curve, quarantining, isolation, ventilators, respirators, mail-in ballots…

Our private worlds are shrinking this year, but universally, we are growing – in empathy for the voiceless, in shared sorrow for the loss of so many loved ones, in appreciation for our country, our freedoms, our responsibilities. Gratitude for all this overwhelms me.

So, as Bob and I sit down to our Thanksgiving dinner, we won’t be surrounded by our kids, grandkids, and all our extended family. Our turkey, like those on most tables this year, will be much smaller. But we will still give thanks, this year maybe more deeply than before, that we have each other, that our family is healthy and, yes, happy, and that our once, oh so normal lives, will soon return.

I wish you and all those you love a very Happy Thanksgiving!

For food in a world where many walk in hunger;

For faith in a world where many walk in fear;

For friends in a world where many walk alone;

We give thanks.

                                         — Author Unknown