A Day of Grace and Gratitude

During Thanksgiving I did several social media posts about things for which I was grateful, and it sort of morphed into "live blogging" the holiday. I share some excerpts here; I should also note that we don't travel for Thanksgiving as our families are a long and difficult drive, and lots of people on the roads all at once. So our holiday at home was typical - the Zoom visits with family and friends were an added bonus!

#gratitude Thanksgiving morning, a sunny window, with a lap cat and coffee. The simplest luxuries.

#gratitude For an old New England tradition filling my kitchen with the scent of cranberries and a cinnamon stick boiling in a bit of maple syrup.

Apparently I am liveblogging #gratitude today - I guess there are worse ways to use social media. A gift from the heavens today; sun. On these dreary short November days, on a holiday when we are accustomed to gathering and are staying at home trying to keep each other safe, unexpected warm sunshine here in northern Virginia means that folks might sit at a table outside together for a little while. At the least, it is a big mood brightener, and I need it, so count on a big walk in our family today - here's hoping you do the same to make room for whatever excess eating might be doing.

#gratitude. With so many of us gathering virtually today, it is easy to "film your elders" talking about their childhood holidays and other family history. Telling their stories to the future. To their descendants, and perhaps yours too. Technology can make amazing things possible that we might not think to do in normal times. Here's a way to participate in StoryCorps, a project that is essentially "crowdsourcing" our oral history (hint - you can do this just as easily at Christmas!)

#gratitude The sounds of many friends and many voices on my kitchen playlist while cooking today. I was missing road trips with my longtime touring friend Michael DeLalla especially, but great to hear him, Al Petteway & Amy WhiteChance McCoy and a whole bunch of others, as well as get treated to a gorgeous a cappella Celtic ballad face to face from Brenda Davis thanks to Zoom. I have to admit, it still catches in my throat a bit to hear my much missed old friend Keith Pitzer's guitar cascading out of the speakers too. I wouldn't trade any of it for nothing on Thanksgiving or any other day - the joys and those few tears too.

#gratitude I do cherish this holiday for placing gratitude front and center at my table, but also because much of the day is devoted to making food. Feasts of thanksgiving had irregular but frequent appearances in American history before President Lincoln made Thankgiving an official holiday in 1863, after vital and costly victories on the battlefield at Gettysburg and the siege of Vicksburg gave much-needed optimism that after such high cost, the Union might yet be saved. For whatever reason, I always find myself feeling close to many of my ancestors - remembering Gram bustling in her kitchen on Thanksgiving afternoon, but knowing too that many of the simple actions such as roasting sweet potatoes and a turkey, have been done for generations by my ancestors who left no lingering visceral trace left for us to do more than imagine. I described the feeling a little more colorfully to our dear friend Maria last night; 

"As long as I have these two here, I will cook and think of my grandmother and sip whisky in my kitchen with turkey grease and vegetable peelings up to my elbows, because food is love. And it is a dirty business that one must be immersed in fully, or the flavors come out bland, and the texture lifeless. But rather than a love song, all of this mess is sort of a kitchen cacophony, conducted by timers and spoons..." 

So on this day of gratitude, may you feel the spirit of your ancestors dancing and singing in your kitchen, free from the work that you now carry on while they watch and relax. May the good ones warm your table, and the not-so-good ones at least keep quiet and not start trouble. As for you, sing loudly. Hold space for those who should not be missing as well as those long departed. Hold close the ones who are present. Remember to unmute your mic when you're Zooming with grandma. And most of all, love fiercely, with everything you've got. 

My final #gratitude post on this strange but beautiful #Thanksgiving2020. I am profoundly grateful for the 21st century technology that allowed me to see family and friends face to face over long and short distances today. Seeing you warmed our hearts and our house without warming up the van engine 

On this Thanksgiving, my grandfather's birthday, I share a gift he left from the past on decidedly 20th century technology. Another one of his 8mm films I recently got transferred, from a summer vacation at Giants Neck on the eastern Connecticut coast, likely about 1948 judging by the cars. I apologize now for not taking the time to edit it more smoothly, but then again Grampa just sliced random pieces of film together to fit them all on a reel, so some of that can fairly be attributed to the source material 

The special thing here is that he makes a rare appearance, running and diving into the water. I've no idea who ran the camera when he did. While Gram doesn't show her face on this film, she is the one going in the water at the beginning. Soon after it's my uncle Doug, my aunt Jennie, before they were married. Larry Nilson and my dad as maybe 11-12 year old kids swimming after my grandfather. And I think it's Gram's sister Marjorie at the very end - the classical concert pianist whom we all adored and who died too young. 

That elder generation is gone now, but on this Thanksgiving, and on my grandfather's birthday, I am reminded that they were very much alive, how much I loved them all, and how glad I am to have welcomed them into my home on this day of gratitude as well as share them with our far-flung family here now. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving #TreasuresinMyChest

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