Be Thankful

The matriarch in Freedom From Want is thinking, "What the hay? Can't any of these people help me with this 20-lb. bird? I have slaved and slaved all morning, and just look at them. Bunch of ingrates . . ."

Over coffee Tuesday afternoon (yes, afternoon, because that’s what is required when a major family-centered holiday is only 48 hours away and my goodness, we had better get together and affirm each other and drink lots of caffeine before we go off in our different directions and voluntarily subject ourselves to fillintheblanksrighthere), the Board of Directors held a roundtable in a bookstore.

It was there that we shared the dynamics and stress of celebrating holidays with extended family, and we found ourselves explaining and analyzing what makes us a little . . . anxious.

Every year, real and paid analysts sit on a couch or chair opposite Matt Lauer or Meredith Viera, explaining away why holidays create such stress and almost always blame it on geography and the amount of time that passes between visits and bad childhoods and painful memories and competitiveness and adults who can’t keep their mouths shut, and the list goes on. When I hear these dialogues, all I can think is, “Hmmm, I wonder what Matt Lauer’s Thanksgiving is like. Who criticizes him? Who whispers about his wife in the kitchen? Who rolls their eyes at his kids when they talk too loud or spill food on the white carpet? Which relative asks, ‘So, Matt, you get a bonus this year? Your cousin Frank sure did. Tell him, Frank.'”

But when it all shakes out, nobody really wants to hear the analysis or the advice. We just really want to be heard and to one-up the next guy and tell a story so unbelievable that the Board members tilt their heads and say, “Well, huh.” Until everyone has time to think and say, “Oh, that’s nothing. I’ll take your lazy sister-in-law and philandering uncle and raise you one deadbeat niece and a passive-aggressive mother-in-law.”

But we are a forgiving group. I pointed out, “You know what’s really weird? This conversation is taking place this very minute all over the country, with men and women like us, complaining about the very same things before they pack their cars and suitcases and drive right into all of this.” And everyone nodded their heads, as if to say, “Oh, you are so right.” Because I was. And am.

And then we all collectively waved our hands in the air and said something to the effect of, “Oh, well, what are you going to do?”

I will tell you what I will do. I will do as my youngest child did in school Tuesday. She wrote on a die-cut “4” the things she is thankful for. Her list (spelling errors and all) included:

My family. My friends. My aunt. My uncle. My cousins.

My grandparents and all of my relitives.

My dogs. My cats. My fish, food and happyness.

I don’t have a die-cut “4,” so use your imagination (which you should be thankful for, by the way). This is my list:

All of the above. Jesus. My husband. My church.

The very minimal list of food I have to cook tomorrow.

This computer. My library card, which I used last night to check out four books and seven CDs. Panera.

My son’s sense of humor. My daughter’s creativity.  Yahtzee. My iPod. My dirty van. Publix. Another daughter’s ability to tell a story that is at once entertaining and exhausting.

Work. My neighbors. My DVD player. My vacuum cleaner. Another daughter’s knack for making her own fun when nobody else seems interested.

Levi’s. The Board of Directors. The $5 car wash. The occasional good night’s sleep. The leaves that cover my yard and will probably never get raked, and the ability to admit that it’s OK. And so very, very much more.

Have a stress-free and high-calorie Thanksgiving . . .