Mr. W. was steamed, and it was all Annie G’s. fault. A five-paragraph essay about Thanksgiving, he said. Describe what you’re thankful for.
Annie’s essay was clearly messed up. It was late and way too short, and she had complained while writing. I think W. meant to humble her for being stubborn, so he had her read it out loud before reading it himself. Her smug smile should have warned him.
I am thankful that there are only 24 hours to Thanksgiving, she wrote. I am thankful that once the day is finished I will no longer be a slave, forced to get up early and help “dress” an ugly bird that smells gross and is slimy. I am thankful that I will be done washing the putrid piles of dishes from all the guests who gorged themselves like little pigs. I am thankful I will no longer have to sit at the table and listen to boring stories that I know nothing about. I am thankful that I won’t have to watch a bunch of old people sit around and drink until all they do is laugh like silly little girls and drool on themselves. Most of all, I am thankful that I won’t have to write any more stupid essays about a stupid holiday.
The last sentence resulted in two things: an inferno of a red face on W. and a trip to the principal’s office for Annie G. The second action loosed a firestorm of smirks from the rest of the 8th grade class – the principal just happened to be Annie G’s dad.
No 13–year-old should by that cynical, Mr. W. stared us down. We all have something to be thankful for. He was really a good guy and always had the best intentions for his students. His enemy was never us, but the negative attitude that no person in America – with all of our advantages- should ever have, he declared.
Annie G.’s cynicism, sadly, seems alive and well in America. At least that’s what I felt as I read the list of store after store open on Thanksgiving this year. Do we really have no room for a day of thanks anymore?
It’s not just the raw deal we give Thanksgiving. I mourn the disappearance of Pause Buttons in American culture. Remember when stores were closed on Sundays? (Sadly, many of my readers are too young.) It was a weekly ritual for worship, rest, and family. Now it’s left to holidays to shut out the frenzy so that we can celebrate those things most meaningful to us … EXCEPT that holidays are becoming just as money hungry as any other day. Ironically, doesn’t it seem that the more our culture pushes the pursuit of wealth, the less wealth many of us seem to have?
I have to wonder – are the sacrifices that merited our greatest Thanksgiving moments (i.e. William Bradford, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln) truly lost on us today? I am struck by the difficulties endured by the Puritans and the wartime scenarios surrounding Washington and Lincoln … yet they all paused and gave thanks.
I think of friends who will have an empty chair at the table or pass by and nod at a picture on the mantle … sad, yet they will still bow their heads in thanks for the gift of the time that they did have with their loved ones.
I think of military members, far away, separated from loved ones, but who will still give thanks.
I think of a sweet family I know who sat around their table early in the day, making paper crafts and teaching their children of the day’s heritage.
I think of forcing my family to walk the Tacoma Narrows bridge with me and of all the other families we saw walking or playing on a stunningly, sunny and crisp day. No great sacrifice for us … but certainly a celebration of our freedom to be together and build memories that cannot break like a new gadget can.
I think on these things and the many others I know who cherish the Holiday season, and I realize that not all has been lost … Mr. W. would be hopeful.