Cheddar cheese squash. Brussel sprouts simmered in apple cider and bacon. Fresh tomatoes crushed into a tomato-lime soup, heavily topped with sour cream. Butter-rich mashed potatoes. Ham smothered with a honey-clove glaze. Juicy turkey. Hot, moist stuffing.
Uncle Pat’s cranberry sauce.
I haven’t even mentioned dessert. But what I want to talk about today is the cranberry sauce. It was just sweet enough and just tart enough. You could drizzle it over anything—the whole plate if you wanted—and it would only make everything that much tastier. I always loved this cranberry sauce, but it wasn’t until the Thanksgiving after my Uncle Pat’s death, when my dad pulled a Tupperware container of it from the year before out of the freezer, that I came to taste every nuance and complexity of the red-orange drizzle—the way it seeped into the creases of the turkey slices on my plate, the way it sent a pleasantly bitter jolt to the back of my mouth and awakened my taste buds.
We enjoyed the sauce thoughtfully and intentionally that year. We shared memories of my uncle. We no longer had the recipe or the creator of the recipe, just a limited supply of a cranberry sauce that would never be made in the same way again. And out of those limits arose a more pronounced gratitude than our Thanksgiving table had ever seen.
So often we are not awarded the privilege of knowing that we are experiencing something for the last time. Last conversations, last kisses, last time pulling in the driveway, last diaper changes or nursings go by with little fanfare, and we find ourselves wondering how we never noticed our lives slipping into a new phase: life without someone, life in a new place, life with grown children. We find ourselves wishing we had given better attention to the moments while they were there.
There are several popular quotes, attributed to various famous people, all saying something to the effect of “enjoy every moment as if it were your last.” The words are effective, and there’s nothing wrong with the little thought experiment, per se. But need we always perpetuate apocalyptic reveries in order to find a place of gratitude in our hearts? Is this a reasonable way to sustain a life of true gratitude?
Gratitude takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder.
– Thomas Merton
Perhaps we need to get at the root of why we might put off truly appreciating something until we know we are losing it, as if there is only time to enjoy it once.
Perhaps we just need to slow. this. train. down.
Let us live in gratitude without having to evoke fears of endings. Let us find gratitude in our way of living, and not only on consideration of loss. Let us partake and be grateful.
I wish you all a beautiful Thanksgiving if you live in a place where it is celebrated. If you want to hear more about my Uncle Pat, you might enjoy this story that I shared back in April on the anniversary of his death.
I will be taking next week off from story-telling so that I can slow down and spend the Thanksgiving season thoughtfully and intentionally with my family. I hope to return with a few new design changes for the website. Wish me luck… I am a writer, not a techie. I’ll take Ulysses over code any day, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, so here goes!