I have much to give thanks for. Today was the day of giving thanks for the things in our life that we have and in some cases do NOT have.
It's easy to get caught up in the vortex of the things taking joy from our lives. We feel sorry the things that we've lost, the decisions that we've made, the chances we didn't take, the lands we haven't visited, the dances not danced, the races not run. But we need to sit back on a day like today with those that we know and love and celebrate just having family. Celebrate the people that know us and love us. The people that we still make memories with and break bread with. The people that have been by our sides through the good and the bad, and be there for them as they have their own races that they haven't run and dances yet to dance.
It was easy at the end of the day to become nostalgic and remember the Thanksgiving days of years gone by. The trips up to Miller to spend the long weekend with our cousins (my mom's sister's family). We established simple traditions of dinner, tv, naps, games, going outside to play catch if the weather permitted. Dusting off the board games that they never played for some reason. It was always interesting to me that ANYBODY else's toys are new toys to different people. These different opportunities were like walking into a toy store and just being able to play with everything. My cousins were all older than me and their toys were obviously older too. There toys were all from the 60's and early 70's. So interesting to play with full size GI Joe dolls and Evil Kneivel stuff. And they had a metal detector that for some reason was NEVER used except for when we came around it seemed. It was always my main mission to find that red piece of plastic and metal and go out on little treasure hunts around their property looking for that long lost gold coin from the the Spanish ship or a Roman tax collector. I think my total haul was multiple bottle caps and a few small coins. It was always less than awesome. But I never gave up everytime we went up there.
When I was in 6th grade we made the drive to Las Cruces, New Mexico to visit cousins down there. We all piled into the family station wagon, all five of us, and made the 20 hour drive over the course of 2 days stopping in Lubbock, Texas to visit a different relative that was in med school there or was an intern or something. I just remember being so relieved to be out of the car and stretching my legs. We then cut across New Mexico and down to Las Cruces. We got to know the relatives there and enjoyed some slightly warmer weather than we were used to in November in South Dakota. The holiday was just like what we did at home: food, family, tv, games, naps and even getting outside to play catch. No metal detector in NM, We made a couple of sight-seeing trips like out to the White Sands National Monument. I remember going to Pizza Hut afterward, the kids sitting at our own table, and the sand we had in our pockets from rolling down the dunes we collected into a pile and refilled their salt shaker when we were done eating. Funny to us at that time, but brutally mean in hindsight now. I can't imagine being that person that put what they thought was salt on their pizza and took a bite into sandy pizza. Goodness, what were we thinking? The trip home up through Colorado seemed to be an even longer journey... I don't remember the exact route we took home, but I do remember that I had a great view out the back of the station wagon. I remember thinking that every one of those semi-trucks was going to slam into the back of our vehicle and be the end of skinny little JT.... 11 years old and never been kissed.
Thanksgivings through the rest of my teen years was exactly the same as before; we'd either drive to Miller or they'd come down to Garretson. If we were in Garretson, the younger cousins (usually Matthew, myself, Sara, Corey) would go driving around a bit to get out of the house. We'd drive around to the different parks in town and the Palisades State Park just outside of town.
The term "Thanksgiving" was pretty hollow to me. I had a solid family... a mom and dad and two brothers. Extended cousins and two grandmothers that fawned all over us and were seemingly invincible. We (I particularly) took this all for granted... that we'd have it year after year just like we always did. Now in my adulthood, I'm realizing that all those adults had their regrets. The missed things in their lives... things that we didn't even know about or people that we didn't even know. They had dances that they wished they had danced. They had races that they wished they had run.
My latest years of my life had been a few trips to the ultimate haven for Thanksgiving. We'd take trips out to New York City to be around the grandest of events that was broadcast into a majority of the homes across America. I sat in the best seats at this grand parade, under the giant polyurethane inflatables. There were times that it was raining and times it was just cold. There were even a couple of times that it was perfect. But I didn't take the road of understanding what I had around me. My world was built on a foundation of stones I didn't see and constructed of parts that I didn't even take into consideration as being important to me. Soon the paint was flaking off and the beams were falling apart. When I eventually lost my mom and my dad, these were walls crumbling in on me. I struggled to keep the structure up.
I had grown complacent and content. The contentment was breeding grounds for a laziness that I didn't even recognize as being there. I just assumed everything would always be there for me. The fact is, you don't know what you have to be thankful for until it's gone. And I eventually began to lose those pieces that made my world stand tall.
Today I felt privileged to eat among family... surrounded by those at the dance with me. I wondered who will be at the dance next year, and who will be running the race. I'm making deep efforts to be more aware of the things I need to appreciate for the moment. I need to be ready to grab an opportunity that might carry me to new horizons in all aspects of my life. I need to be ready to explore and find new things with my heart and mind. I need to continue to embrace the past and open my eyes for the future. Give thanks for the memories and give thanks for the opportunities.
Now... I need to try to run that race and go dance that dance.
I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.