My ancestors began to arrive in the American colonies in 1630 and participated in the celebrations of harvests and of special days of thanksgiving from time to time through the years. George Washington proclaimed a thanksgiving day in 1777. The new nation celebrated thanksgiving days now and then through the years until the Civil War, and then President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in every November as a perpetual holiday.
I’ve got plenty to be thankful for. In the spirit of the holiday, I’m looking back at the last eleven Thanksgiving days and remembering specific things among the myriad heaps of things I could name that I am grateful for.
Look carefully and you can see the glowing eyes of my dog in the kitchen. Just beside his leg you can see more glowing eyes—the cat Daisy, who was crouching under the open dishwasher door where the dog couldn’t reach her without getting his nose scratched. He got his nose badly scratched. The dogs who belonged to the household no doubt warned my dog, but my dog was not one to take advice from anybody when it came to investigating cats and chasing them if possible. He had to learn the hard way that Daisy was In Charge of that household. Daisy is still alive, but my dog has been gone now for three years. How I miss him!
How I miss my brother Dan! He passed away just last January, and we never had another Thanksgiving together after this one this year pictured here. My family didn’t get together very often, and this had been the first time since another brother, Larry, passed away in 1998. We had gotten together that April to celebrate our parents’ golden wedding anniversary at my house. I am so glad that we did that. We couldn’t have known that that fall would see Larry suddenly leave us, and then my sister’s youngest child a month later.
Thanksgiving 1998 was so very hard. Larry’s funeral was the day before. I flew home Thanksgiving morning, grieving terribly, and my daughter picked me up at the airport, crying because one of my husband’s relatives became angry at her having gone and found her birth family. The entire family that was gathered at my sister-in-law’s house was so tense over the situation that nobody paid one iota of attention to me, nobody spoke one word of sympathy or acknowledgement that I had just lost my brother, the one who was dearest to me of all, the one who had spoiled me from the time I was little and who had made himself one of my best friends. I simply stood in the place of a buffer to my daughter, ensuring that nobody spoke one more word to her that wasn’t polite. I just wanted to get out of there. That year I was thankful at least that I had had a brother who was such a good friend to me.
My siblings and parents, as I said, rarely got together after that terrible year. But eleven years ago we were all together at my sister’s house and there was no drama, there were no hard feelings, no arguments or anything but a lot of laughter and a lot of fun.
The following year we were at the same home of my sister-in-law, with the in-laws who had the chickens. But it had been the election year in the U.S. and I had run afoul of my husband’s family by answering truthfully whom I had voted for. And it wasn’t the approved choice of the rest of my husband’s family. I was made to know how terrible it was that I had voted the way I did. Not that it had mattered one bit in the state of Utah where I live! The majority of voters in the state always votes differently from the way I do and I’m sure that will always be the case. I did not answer—did not even acknowledge the rudeness.
This picture reminds me not of that part of the occasion, but of the charming habit my sister-in-law has of decorating every surface in her main rooms with seasonal objects. There is always something new to see there. One thing she has a lot of—nesting dolls. Her biggest set has thirty-two pieces and the tiniest is the size of a grain of rice. Most of her sets are Christmas-related, but here is one for Thanksgiving. She gave me one for Halloween, skeletons that glow in the dark.
And the following year all the surfaces were decorated similarly, everyone was the same, everything seemed to be a copy, but I found myself treated with solicitous kindness and interest, and I thought it was an interesting way of making it up to me. No verbal apology that would have completely cleared the air, but somehow the communication lines were open and I could tell I was expected to forgive and forget. I did forgive but of course haven’t forgotten. It is interesting that this election year, the relatives called up my sister-in-law and asked whom we all had voted for. She said that not one of us had voted for Donald Trump, and that yes, I had voted for the person they thought I would be voting for. But this year I was joined by my husband and son in voting for the same person. And this year the other relatives have decided not to join us. Perhaps it is best that we not meet until the election has faded from people’s memories somewhat. Politics should never part families. I am thankful that my extended family has negotiated a way not to allow that to happen.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody who is celebrating. “Be in thanksgiving daily,” says a scripture that I particularly like. Let’s be. Thankful.