It was a truth universally acknowledged at my grade school (and most probably other grade schools across the US) that Thanksgiving was an excellent time to make children create crafts that fell under the heading “What I’m Thankful For.” I made several such crafts during my early education. The one I remember the best was one that we made as part of a (convenient) computer project. We were to type out the thing we were thankful for, provided no one in the class had picked it, print it out, and our teachers glued the words onto various Thanksgiving paraphernalia and put them on The Class Bulletin Board so we (and our parents) could admire our work. I remember that all of the good responses like “my mom” and “my family” were taken, so I settled on the only thing I could think of. We had just learned that the plural form of a lot of nouns ending in -f was -ves. I decided that I was thankful for leaves. I thought about the big, beautiful autumn foliage displays from paintings and books (displays we did not have in Houston, Texas, where we were lucky if a tree’s leaves turned slightly yellow by January). My mother came after school one day to pick me up and asked me why I wasn’t thankful for something more important…like a person? She felt bad I hadn’t said anything about my family. I felt bad that my mother didn’t recognize my seven year-old academic genius. It’s a story we laugh about now.
Writing about Thanksgiving now reminds me of those countless projects I did when I was younger. How do I do something original? Looking back into this story, which has become one of those famous family holiday stories, one people tell during football commercials or while cooking in the kitchen, I find several important teachings about thanksgiving.
I am thankful, for example, for knowledge. I am thankful that I can read and write and know that words like “leaf” have plural forms that end in -ves. It’s a privilege, one that I often take for granted. The skills I was fortunate enough to learn as a child and teenager have helped me to receive a college education here at Loyola, an experience for which I will forever be grateful.
I am thankful for family. I am thankful for parents who tried to understand their seven year-old daughter’s weird thought process that led her to publicly direct her gratitude toward a plant part rather than the people in her family. I am thankful that my parents took the time to see the numerous bulletin boards that I filled with my gratitude when I was younger. I am glad that they take the time to read the blog postings I make about being thankful now that I am older. I am glad that they have crazy stories about my grade school days and tell them while making mashed potatoes in the kitchen.
I am grateful that even though I’ve done countless assignments on “What I’m Thankful For,” I always have new and different answers. Within that one story, I’ve found so many things. I could find many more.
The holiday of Thanksgiving traditionally begins the holiday season, a “holidaze” where stories about seven year-olds who are thankful for leaves take a backseat to all of the responsibilities associated with families, food, and parties. Growing up can do that. However, I think it’s cool that in a given moment, with a little bit of thought, one can find so many things worthy of gratitude.