“What are you thankful for?” My mother-in-law asked as we sat down to our sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner. This being one of our family’s annual traditions, I was excited to hear what my two sons had to say about gratitude. My little one led off with a short but sweet account of being grateful for family and friends, and not surprisingly added a thankful shout out to the NFL and NCAA football associations.
A few other guests shared their tales of gratefulness which led to my older son, Levi’s, turn at bat. “I’m grateful for everyone at this table and everything on this table,” he managed to slur out in between massive mouthfuls of mashed potatoes. Now, normally, that might be enough of an answer for an 11 year old boy. But this seemed oddly abrupt for my theatrically inclined, loquacious eldest son who has never missed an opportunity to speak in front of an attentive crowd.
I didn’t worry too much about it though and followed carefully as the rest of the guests offered up gratefulness for family, health, friendship, children, spouses, love, and all the other usual suspects. Then came my eldest nephew’s chance to speak. This kid’s like a 17 year old rock star; bright, athletic, popular, funny. He’s got it all. He gave a thoughtful speech about his parents, teachers and clergy keeping him grounded and on track and thanked his younger sister for being his best friend and ardent supporter through thick and thin. But he didn’t stop there. He spoke for another 7 or 8 minutes thanking mentors, friends he’d grown up with and even his two young cousins which put a smile on both my boys’ faces.
With everyone’s gratitude out of the way, we went back to eating and resumed our regularly scheduled conversations. Suddenly, my eldest son announced that he had much more to add to his earlier remarks on thankfulness. He stood up, called for attention and explained that he had been unusually brief before due to excessive hunger. Now that he’d already snarfed several servings of all of his favorite Thanksgiving delights, he was ready to begin his gratitude homily.
He then went on to…go on…and on…and on, about all the things for which he was thankful. Everyone smiled and cooed at his lengthy, detailed list that seemed to last an eternity. Finally, I gave him the “wrap it up” gesture along with a slightly irritated eye ball bulge that said, “Alright already. It’s enough!” He took the cue, just before I had to pull him away from the table with a large, old fashioned crook handled cane.
Not at all dismayed, my son turned tail and headed back to the buffet for yet another heaping serving of holiday treats. By the time dessert rolled around, he was moaning in tummy distention in one of the guest bedrooms. When we finally packed up the leftovers and headed home, his gratefulness centered solely on being able to unbutton his now too tight trousers and know that soon he and his bloated belly would be happily tucked into bed to sleep off his Thanksgiving binge.
This morning I found him cheerfully chowing on some of his leftover faves without even a hint of remorse about last night’s overindulgence. “Can we go to the mall today?” he asked expectantly as I sleepily emerged from my bedroom. “Are you insane?” I retorted. “It’s Black Friday. Do you not remember the chaos from last year?” And that’s when I realized that being a kid means you get to forget all the bad stuff, like over-eating, tummy aches and aggressive shopping crowds. I tried to remember when exactly my view of “holiday magic” got replaced with “holiday madness.” Whenever it was, maybe I need to try harder to remember the good stuff and not get so focused on what’s wrong with this time of year.
Funny how putting your attention on gratitude can refocus your view of the world. Well, onward we go. We’re off to the mall to spend money we don’t have on things nobody needs in stores full of hostile shoppers. Sounds fun, don’t ya think?