Giving Thanks

Traditional holidays tend to evoke a sense of nostalgia. You remember the loved ones who are no longer with you. You long for the familiar — friends, foods and traditions. You seek a sense of home and belonging. As we head into our first holiday season away from “home,” we find ourselves navigating questions of tradition, family and belonging.

Our home has been “ground zero” for Thanksgiving and Easter festivities for two decades, a role that we embraced. Thanksgiving is, by far, our favorite holiday. We love the idea of a day set aside to give thanks, to show gratitude, to appreciate the richness of our lives. We love that it has remained largely unscathed from rampant consumerism. (The ridiculous “Black Friday” notwithstanding.)

This year G was scheduled to speak on a panel at a conference in the evening and I found myself possibly facing my first Thanksgiving alone — a prospect that I could not abide. So I put the call out to a collection of friends I recently met at the House of Beautiful Business. They responded with an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm. For most of these Lisbon locals it was their first Thanksgiving.

I went on a treasure hunt for the classic ingredients. The local butcher had turkey and I bought a breast and a leg; the breast would be roasted in the (tiny) oven with herb butter and the leg would be braised on the stovetop with vegetables and aromatics. I found fresh cranberries (motherlode!) and was able to make my traditional cranberry-orange sauce. I made mashed potatoes and green beans almondine. Two Americans came, bringing Betty Crocker’s stuffing and some appetizers. I assigned appetizers, desserts, vegetable side dishes, wine, etc.

Fourteen of us gathered, and I read a brief excerpt of an essay by David Whyte on gratitude.

Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not necessarily something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life.

We shared a meal and conversation and an overall fabulous evening. I finally went to bed around 2:30 in the morning, tired and content.

In trying to be fully present and grateful in the moment, I reflected a bit on this idea of “home.” Throughout the day I kept thinking about traditions “back home” and my kitchen “back home” and my friends “back home.” What I finally came to realize, as we spoke around our circle about what we are thankful for, was that I am enormously blessed and grateful for having more than one place I can call home.

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