I thought I would share one of our family’s Thanksgiving traditions with you. We travel every Thanksgiving, and I wanted a way to document some of the things we were thankful for, but I didn’t want to cart around anything bulky on our road trips. In 2007 I ran across a little book at The One Spot in Target. I threw it in my purse and carried it around for a full week, knowing that if I took it out, I’d most certainly forget to pack it for Thanksgiving.
This will be the 7th year we will pass the little book around the table at my aunt’s house and each write something in it we are thankful for. Each year that I’ve remembered to bring it has been a little Thanksgiving miracle in itself. But I’m so glad I did, especially since our son Jack is no longer here to write in the book.
Two and a half months after the accident, we were faced with our first Thanksgiving without him. We brought out the little striped book, realizing that although we still had things to be thankful for, our loss was so enormous, so painful, so staggering, that we had to dig really deep to even sit at the table with his empty chair, let alone write in the book. My sister, Liz, wrote the only thing she could muster up that day, being thankful for “modern transportation” so we could be together in our grief.
We laughed and cried as we looked back over Jack’s entries, as each year he spelled it “thankfull” instead of thankful. I saw the years he was “thankfull” for Legos, and family, and even ‘dough,’ a little joke he started making when he was in kindergarten. Jack was quirky. He rarely had an answer you would expect. I asked him why he had said dough. Was he talking about money, a la the Welcome Back Kotter era? No, the kid was really just thankful for dough-- you know, the kind they hand out to play with at Italian restaurants while you wait. Ok. Then there was the year he was thankful for Prester John, a legendary Christian King from the 12th Century whom none of us had ever heard of. Quirky, right?
I treasure the little book, and love looking back over it.
The entries aren’t long and detailed. On year my nephew just wrote, “you people” as his contribution. Last year our daughter Margaret wrote, “I’m thankful for Shadow (our dog), family, cousins, grammar, and a house/food.”
This Thanksgiving, two years after our horrible loss, I am able to consider many more things that I’m thankful for, including the inexplicable joy that creeps into our days as I realize that 12 short years mothering my son were preferable to a lifetime of never knowing him at all. I am thankful I am able to breathe more easily and see the years in front of me not as a bleak, miserable life sentence, but as a time for more memories to be made and more growth to come as time marches me closer to being with him once again.
When I was getting out the Thanksgiving book this year, I saw a craft Jack had made in school. And I was grateful for whichever teacher or room mother forced him to do it. You know, the good old, ‘trace your hand and turn it into a turkey’ craft where you write down things you are thankful for? It says,
Dear Mom and Dad
Thank you for:
Being great parents,
Taking care of me,
Loving me forever.
I think the word choice is perfect, because that’s how it is, isn’t it? Even though times will change and certain cherished ones no longer sit in the chairs around the table, our love for them never ends. It truly is forever.