This Thanksgiving, more than ever, I am reminded of the importance of living with a sense of gratitude. Like so many other parents, I feel my greatest blessings are my children. They are currently 20, 17, and 15. Oftentimes, people will say to me, “Don’t you just miss when they were little? That was my favorite time.” I really don’t. I think that I can attribute that to two things.
Firstly, I’ve always tried to be present in the moment. I still look at them and think, “This is the only day that you will ever be this age, with all of the happiness, sadness, joy, uncertainty, etc. that accompanies it. I want to soak up how you look, how your voice sounds, what your most pressing issues are. I want to fully experience you as you are today.” Secondly, my husband always traveled a great deal, so I left my career to be a full-time mom. He often relocates to his jobsite and doesn’t come home for weeks at a time. When I say that I had my children by myself for 24/7, I truly mean it. Add to that the fact that my youngest child, my son, decided to drop out of pre-school at the ripe old age of 3, and you’ll appreciate that I always had someone in tow. (I can remember looking at him while he slept in his toddler bed at night and thinking, “Wow, eventually you do turn off.”)
My father once told me, “When you look at your children as they age, you don’t just see them in the present. You view them as a collage of all of their former selves.” How true that is. As I help my oldest compose her resume for upcoming internships, I’m reminded of her excitement when she was offered her first part-time job at 14. As my second daughter works on her college essays, I smile with the memory of that same look of intensity as she practiced her letters in kindergarten so many years ago. And when my son recently told me how much he enjoyed hanging out with me, I remembered the three-year-old who asked if we’d still be able to be together in heaven.
So when I count my blessings this Thanksgiving, my family will once again top the list. And even though we will miss seeing our extended relatives, I will be happy that once again all of my chicks are in the nest. My wish for you, dear neighbor, is that you too will be surrounded by those that you love most next Thursday as you enjoy the sustenance that comes from good food and a full heart. In closing, I’d like to leave you with my favorite poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. It was reprinted in The Philadelphia Inquirer a number of years ago on Thanksgiving Day. It has graced my refrigerator ever since:
“No longer forward nor behind, I look in hope or fear;
But grateful, take the good I find, the best of now and here.”