In middle school, Thanksgiving always brought out the same perennial writing assignment.
“OK class,” said Sister Mary Bernadette Rosemary Mary. “Take out your pencils and write what you’re thankful to God for on this Thanksgiving.”
I was one of the best spellers in the class, but the word “Thanksgiving” always vexed me as I tried to sound out the spelling of the holiday. Two words, or one? “Thancksgiving” or “Thanxgibbing?”
In fourth grade, I got it right. I wrote, “I am thankful for spelling Thanksgiving corectly (sic).” For that, Sister Mary Bernadette Rosemary Mary delivered a stern lecture on taking class seriously. She was to be the first of my many editors in years to come.
A middle-schooler’s young life has only begun its barrage of trials. Within this inexperienced world view, the Thanksgiving list has limits: “I was thankful that I caught the bus on time this morning. I am thankful for the rest of the week off to play in the snow. I am thankful for Wednesday cheeseburger day in the cafeteria. I am thankful for my Return of the Jedi Jabba The Hutt Playset.”
I thought about Middle School Me and all he was thankful for as I sat at the intersection of Burbank and Victory boulevards today. The cars ahead of me were crammed in a bottleneck, with cranky drivers trying to get into the Empire Center.
“I am thankful that the cars honking all over this intersection are not honking at me,” I found myself thinking.
Wait. Is that the best I’ve got? Was I really getting that shallow? Is this all I have to be thankful for?
No. I find that as I get older, I count my blessings more often than just the days before a national holiday. And I understand now the look my grandparents would get on Thanksgiving every year as they were surrounded by two and three generations of their progeny.
It must get easier to count those blessings when they’re right in front of you, making you laugh, eating the dinner you made for them, asking you for a third helping of the yams-and-marshmallows, hold the yams.
A year ago, I was thankful to move to this city where people genuinely wish you a good day, and neighbors actually care about your well-being. A month ago, I was thankful for the birth of my best friend’s daughter, a girl who for her whole life will endure surgeries to help her heart.
Two weeks ago, I was thankful she came through her first one with ease. A week ago, I joined veterans in McCambridge Park to thank them for their service.
Today, I am thankful that my wife and I can host a small dinner for some family and friends this Thursday who, like us, won’t make it to their hometowns for the holidays. We call it our Misfits’ Thanksgiving, and everyone seems a little more involved in the potluck planning than your usual dinner party.
It’s been years since Sister Mary Bernadette Rosemary Mary’s old writing assignment, and it is still relevant. Trying it again, it’s easier in some respects (my editor tells me I spell Thanksgiving correctly) yet more difficult.
The point is to not only be thankful for the people in one’s life, but to let them know it.
Looks like I’ve finally taken my assignment seriously. Sister Mary Bernadette Rosemary Mary would be so proud.
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he’s not trimming a turkey, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.