AP NEWS

Does Your List Include Thankfulness?

November 18, 2018

By now, you may be thinking about making room in the refrigerator for the turkey. Already, the shovel is in a handy spot by the door, a year’s dust whooshed away from the recent snowfall. Maybe you’ve stacked some firewood. By now, you’ve turned up the thermostat, feet in slippers these mornings as you pad into the kitchen to put the tea on the boil or lift the lid to fill your morning Keurig with clean water. You’ll smile from a window as your neighbors’ kids board the school bus with their papered Pilgrim hats. Or, perhaps you’ll wave your own child off as a papered feathery headdress bobs back and forth. Either way, you’ll begin your day of responsibilities and work. Later in the evening, after dinner and under a sheltering roof, you might sip a glass of wine and settle in for a New York Times bestseller or your favorite Netflix series. Perhaps you’ll tuck your kids into bed with a story or call your grandkids to say good night.

Thanksgiving is near.

With the coming holiday, the ones you care about most are on your mind, and even if you aren’t thinking of an American tradition rooted in an act of welcome in 1621 by the Wampanoag toward William Bradford, charity given to him and his Pilgrims at a time when their survival depended upon it, it is the very root of what grew into Thanksgiving today. The here and now of the last Thursday of November (or, in this case, the second-to-last Thursday) presses.

In the coming hours, you’ll switch on a light and check the pantry cupboard. The idea that Thanksgiving began as three days of prayer by the Pilgrims is long since buried in the pages of a schoolbook, and so here and now you’ll take inventory. You will have the privilege of hosting this Thanksgiving. And even if you are on someone’s guest list instead, you’ll have the privilege of offering a dish you wish to make.

As the host, you may see that, in fact, butternut squash, turnip and potatoes are in order. Most probably, you’ll not be serving lobster and definitely not seal or swan, as the Pilgrims did. You jot your items down. The notion of sitting at a table outdoors in the cold and the damp with a meal on a roughhewn table by the smoke of an open fire doesn’t cross your mind. Instead, you look ahead to a bustling modern kitchen, members of the family and loving friends helping, a steam-windowed kitchen range pot-laden, simmering with vegetables of every color and an oven will that deliver a dripping-basted, stuffed turkey, garnished with cranberries on a platter revered as the centerpiece of an American dining table set with tapered candles, flatware on folded napkins, long-stemmed glasses and a ladled gravy boat.

No matter what the weather, you and your company will be well fed, warm and safe. The challenges of the day will be akin to running out for the whipping cream, which you forgot to list. The challenges will not be having to endure the loss of loved ones due to hunger or exposure or struggling to understand how to survive in a new land.

And, as you make your list, you may not be thinking of proclamations from presidents past, even as they remind us each year since those earlier days when Thanksgiving was more a prayer than a feast, to cherish the same spirit the native Americans shared with the first European settlers who had left their homelands with their families to cross the Atlantic to start anew without oppression.

As you make your list, you stand with the refrigerator door open, an array of food before you, seeing that, yes indeed, more butter is needed. Four pounds should do it for a dozen guests who will be arriving in a few days. Sliding out a cabinet drawer reveals depleted bags of flour and sugar. Check. You step over to peruse the spices opposite the sink. No ground cloves. That makes you remember cider and eggnog, and though the jar of cinnamon is half full, just to be sure, you add it also onto the list. The faint aroma brings apple crisp to mind, and you double back to the pantry to see if you have rolled oats. You do. The floor feels warm under your feet. The snow falls past the window panes, a distant harkening some other place and time.

Fathoming living in November in the Plymouth environment 400 years ago is the furthest thing from your freed mind. Maybe it’s trapped deep in the memory of your DNA, but there is no sign of it.

The freezer, as you suspected, has room for ice cream for the cherry and mince pies you’re planning, and the adjacent overhead cabinet is missing a key ingredient: evaporated milk for pumpkin pie. The list on your notepad grows, and you marvel at the technology of the voice-to-text on your iPhone that makes the listing easy and reassures you that you won’t forget it. You dictate, adding bread, celery, rosemary, thyme and sweet onions for the stuffing. Ginger ale, milk, half-and-half. Macintosh and Cortland apples. Another glass pie dish just in case. Foil. Wine. Beer. You’re expecting a new stockpot to arrive via UPS today since the enamel on your old one chipped after popping corn over too high a flame.

There will be more than enough food for the meal itself and plenty of leftovers for a few days. You will feast.

Perhaps you add a log to the fireplace. Perhaps the furnace kicks on with an assuring rumble as the white swirl of a nor’easter whips at the windows, a long-ago memory merely gusts of snowflakes from behind glass. You may not think it, but you feel safe and sound. You may not list it but you have everything you need to survive: shelter, food, water, and security. You have everything you want, meaning those things that really matter -- a sense of purpose, a loving family, friends and freedom.

The list goes on when you consider all the scientific and social wonders of the 21st century, but right now, your concern is that there’s room in the refrigerator for the turkey.

The American holiday’s right around the corner and it nostalgically conjures up school kids in headdresses and buckled hats and cornucopias of bountiful harvests.

But the truth is, the inception of the first Thanksgiving was less about feasting and more about survival. When the Mayflower missed its Hudson River mark and made landfall in what would become Massachusetts, the Pilgrims had suffered hunger and disease and lost half of their journeying travelers. They were a group insightfully referred to by President Barack Obama in his 2016 Thanksgiving proclamation as refugees. Without the generosity and knowledge of the indigenous Wampanoag, the small, struggling band of Pilgrims might not have survived the harsh New England winter.

Survival. We survive when we work together. We survive when we give thanks.

So you make your list and prepare for the upcoming day of thanks, and you take a moment to remind your children about a story you almost forgot. Then you share what you are thankful for, because there is so much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bonnie J. Toomey teaches at Plymouth State University, writes about writing, learning, and life in the 21st century. You can follow Parent Forward on Twitter at https://twitter.com /bonniejtoomey. Learn more at www.parentforward.blogspot.com or visit bonniejtoomey.com .

AP RADIO
Update hourly